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The Light Between Oceans
Photo by Penguin Random House

Fiction Review: The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman

Glenda Rogers —

There are very few books I have found compelling enough to read twice, but The Light Between Oceans, Stedman’s first novel, is one of them.

Family is a strong theme in The Light Between Oceans and I must warn you that if you have children you should be prepared with copious tissues – it’s a tear-jerker. Tom Sherbourne, a returned war hero, has a strong moral character and a kind nature but he commits the small flaw of loving his wife more than obeying the strict rules of being a Lighthouse Keeper. This small flaw will cost him, his wife and others immeasurable grief.

Isabel is the first person Tom sees when he comes to Partageuse, Western Australia, fresh from the war, to take up the position of lighthouse keeper on Janus – an island 100 miles out from shore. She is feeding bread to a flock of seagulls and laughing at their antics. Her friendliness and her fresh, light-hearted nature captivates him and gives him the feeling that the war is finally over. He can leave the darkness behind and be dazzled by her light. 

For a time all is sweetness and light for the couple making their lives together on the remote island. However, things become strained after two miscarriages and a stillbirth. Isabel’s despair draws a dark cloud on their lives. So when a dinghy washes up onto the shore with a dead man and a living baby girl, Isabel sees it as a gift from God. She begs Tom to let her keep the baby, and not tell the authorities.

This could be the end of the story – but of course it isn’t. Back on shore there is a grieving mother, half-crazed with the unexplained disappearance of her husband and baby daughter…

Stedman draws upon the stark beauty of the remote Australian rugged coast with its extreme weather patterns to reflect the tragic action in this beautifully crafted story.

You can also listen to The Light Between Oceans as an audio book on disk or an e-audio book downloadable from our website via Borrowbox. The film adapted from the book is also available to borrow from our DVD collection.