Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A gift of a book: M L Stedman's The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans: a gift of a book

I was given The Light Between Oceans last February, but somehow didn't get around to reading it until August. What a treat I missed! I absolutely loved this book; it's a beautifully written, old-fashioned story but the dilemma at its heart is as agonising today as it would have been in April 1926, the starting point of the story.

The Light Between Oceans was published in 2012 and there is already a movie in the making. I guess I'm a little late to the party on this one. But, in case you haven't read it, here are the reasons I loved it and if you haven't done so already, please do.

1.  The simplicity of the story: A young lighthouse keeper, Tom Sherbourne, and his wife Isabel  live on a remote island known as Janus Rock off Western Australia. They yearn for children but Isabel suffers several miscarriages and the last, when she is seven months' pregnant, leaves her suicidal. Two weeks later a boat carrying a dead man and a crying baby washes ashore. Isabel sees the child as a gift from God and persuades Tom, against his better judgement, that they should keep the baby. The Light Between Oceans unravels the consequences of that decision and the paths Tom and Isabel's lives take, for better and for worse, after making it.

2.  Its classic qualities: Yes, I know that sex sells. And so do vampires, werewolves and zombies apparently. Personally I find it more than a little depressing that so many bestsellers are little more than the reading equivalent of junk food. The Light Between Oceans is more nourishing fare. I've described it as old-fashioned, but perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as timeless. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it a decade ago and could reread it with pleasure in ten years' time. 

3.  M L Stedman's prose is a pleasure to read: There are many memorable passages in the book, but every sentence, every paragraph, every chapter is beautifully crafted. 
"He traced the constellations as they slid their way across the roof of the world from dusk till dawn. The precision of it, the quiet orderliness of the stars, gave him a sense of freedom. There was nothing he was going through that the stars had not seen before, somewhere, some time on this earth. Given enough time, their memory would close over his life like healing a wound. All would be forgotten, all suffering erased."
Read this book to find out what happens to the Sherbournes; to learn more about the art of story-telling; or simply for the love of fine writing, but please do read it - and let me know what you think.


  1. I have heard good things about this book but never read it. Sounds like I should! Jane

  2. Definitely! Have you read anything good lately? I'm not sure what to read next...