First Line: On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.
Tom Sherbourne has done something that hundreds of thousands of other young men didn't: survive four years on the Western Front. When this World War I veteran returns home to Australia, all he wants to do is to forget, to find a job where he can be of use, and to be left to himself. He takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly a half day's journey from the coast of Western Australia. It is a life of isolation. The supply boat comes four times a year, and shore leave might be granted every other year at best.
To this life, Tom brings a young, vivacious, and loving wife, but years pass, and after two miscarriages and a stillbirth, Tom sees that the wife he loves more than life itself is wasting away before his eyes. One morning while tending those tiny graves, Isabel hears a baby's cry on the wind. It is not her imagination. A boat has washed ashore. Aboard are a dead man and a tiny living baby girl.
No one has taken better care of the Janus Rock Lighthouse than Tom Sherbourne. Everything gleams; every bit of machinery runs smoothly; and his records are meticulous. Tom is an intensely moral man, and he wants to report the man and infant immediately, but Isabel has taken the baby and clings to her like a drowning woman to a life raft. Against his better judgment, the incident is not reported, and Tom and Isabel claim the baby as their own and name her Lucy. For Isabel, life is idyllic for two years. Then leave is granted, and the family of three return to shore where they are reminded that there are other people in the world, and their decision has ruined the life of one of them.
You would never dream that The Light Between Oceans is a debut novel. The isolated setting of Janus Rock is indelibly drawn: the wind, the birds wheeling in the air, the crashing of the waves, the steady brilliance of the light at night. The sights, the scents, the sounds-- they all live in the mind as do the streets and the inhabitants of the small town of Partageuse where Isobel's parents live, and where Tom, Isabel and Lucy spend their infrequent leave.
It's impossible to read this book and not become totally drawn in by the characters: the withdrawn and haunted Tom, the bold and laughing Isabel, and all the people who call Partageuse home. It was also impossible for me to read this book and not to choose sides. One of the major images of the book is this meeting of opposites. Janus Rock stands where the warm Indian and cold Antarctic Oceans meet. It's where the taciturn Tom and the ebullient Isabel live. It's where a brilliant light flashes continuously throughout the dark nights. It's where a bad decision is made for all the right reasons. The town of Partageuse continues the image.
I was completely caught up in Stedman's story. I was staunchly in Tom's camp, and I wanted to shake sense into Isabel, but these are not one-dimensional characters, and as the story progressed, I finally put away my outraged sense of right and wrong and let wave after wave of consequences toss me onto the rocks. All I could do was watch... and feel my heart break for these people.
You won't find any easy answers in The Light Between Oceans, but you will find a beautifully written and sensitively told story about people who make mistakes and learn to live with the aftermath. I highly recommend this book.
(Setting of Australia after World War One; Historical context, and details about working as a lighthouse keeper were interesting; lots of great imagery of both the lighthouse and the Janus Rock Island it is located; a Quality and above average emotional Read (heavy with sadness and Loss, mental and physical isolation, and recovery), good character development; and the moral dilemma of the story is not easily answered as fully right or wrong, Lastly, the Introductory chapters were awkward with their presentation, but definitely a compelling, satisfying, and complete read thereafter).
Overall, I give it a Rating of 3.5/5.0
This story takes place in Australia after WW1. A young soldier home from the war marries a young women and they go to live at a Lighthouse. It is very remote and isolating. Both characters face tremendous loss. They make a choice that shatters their lives and many others. It is sad and heart wrenching, as you wish that this couple would have made a different choice. However, you remain transfixed until the end. This is a story about how as humans we make choices for many good reasons, but fail to realize that does not necessarily mean that they are the right ones.
This book was emotionally a hard read. I developed sympathy and/or empathy for every character even though they were all in very different places and hurt each other in very different ways. I thought there were so many ideas and dilemmas that were thought-provoking. I definitely recommend reading this book.
A beautiful, beautiful story of great love, great sorrow, and the regret, retribution and redemption of all the lives involved. Would give it 6 stars if I could...simply loved it! D.