Wednesday, December 26, 2012

And still More WW I - Review: The Light Between Oceans

Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M. L. Stedman
Publisher: Scribner (2012)  342 pages
Alternate format: Audio - Simon and Schuster, 10.5 hours
Narrator: Noah Taylor
Genre: Fiction
Subject: Child stealing, guilt
Setting: Lighthouse off western coast of Australia
Source: public library
Why did I read this book now?  I saw reviews, it sounded interesting and it was available at the library.

A stunning read.  Not only is the story compelling, but the setting is luminous and the character development some of the best I've read this year.  Stedman's prose is crystal clear, crisp, and often has the reader gasping at it's beauty.

The story itself is heart-breaking. Tom Sherbourne returns to his native Australia from fighting in World War I where he witnessed and participated in  incredible carnage.  Determined to make up for his part in all the killing, he joins the lightkeeping force, and trains as a lightkeeper.  Eventually, he takes his young and vivacious bride Isabel to Janus Light, 100 miles off the western shore of Australia where they are the only human inhabitants of the island.  As the months, and then years pass, Isabel suffers several miscarriages, and the couple begins to lose faith in their chosen life.

Suddenly a baby washes ashore in a boat....where did the baby come from?  What should Tom do about reporting this to the authorities?  Can they possibly hope to keep the babe for their own?  The story is too deep, phsychologically intense, and ultimately emotionally draining for me to spoil it by telling how it progresses from there.

Stedman's story-telling keeps the reader glued to the book.  His descriptions of the vast ocean scenarios, the loneliness of life on the island, and the weather events are spectacular.  The decisions faced by all the characters involved are morally complex and take the reader on a roller coaster of emotions.  It will be a popular book club discussion choice.  Ultimately, there are no good answers to many of the questions, and no character escapes the angst resulting from decisions made.

One of my best of the year reads.


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