It has been said that everyone loves a good book, but that truly great works of writing inspire mixed reviews. With this piece of wisdom in mind, I was able to come to terms with the conflicting opinions I found surrounding The Light Between Oceans.
The Light Between Oceans shines bright, a beacon of excellence amidst a sea of otherwise good books. Stedman has outdone herself on this, her first novel. A work of historical fiction, The Light Between Oceans unfolds between the first World War and the nineteen-fifties in western Australia. Stedman narrates the novel through the eyes of Tom Sherbourne, a kind-hearted, self-sacrificing war veteran and the keeper of the lighthouse on Janus Rock, a remote Australian island.
The quiescent routine of life at the lighthouse and the soothing, all-encompassing presence of nature’s continuity begin to heal Sherbourne’s scared psyche and emotional wounds. Only, however, when Tom encounters the ebullient Isabel does he return to life. Together, the young couple find bliss in the musical rhythm of lighthouse life. A string of three consecutive miscarriages test the bonds of their love and the strength of their marriage until a boat washes up on shore shortly after the burial of their third child. In it, they find a dead man and a newborn baby girl. Torn between keeping the child and reporting her to the authorities, Tom and Isabel make a decision which will forever change the course of their lives and challenge their deepest held moral convictions.
Stedman captures the beauty of unconventional families with the depth of emotion and candor seen in beloved literary works such as the Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery. Compellingly human and artfully developed, Stedman’s characters weather a hurricane of trials which strip away at their beings and reveal their innermost souls.
Stedman delivers a tightly plotted, mesmerizing tale without a single wasted page, engrossing readers until the very last line.
Enough cannot be said about the beauty of Stedman’s prose. It sweeps you up like the ocean, refined, elegant, and timeless. The imagery in The Light Between Oceans matches the breathtaking spectacle of a sunset seen from the top of Janus Rock’s lighthouse.
The Light Between Oceans is a highly emotional read, meant to inspire deep thought about the nature of good and evil, morality, and right and wrong. And it succeeds.
This book is nothing short of a masterpiece. I sincerely hope to see more works from Stedman in the future, although I imagine she will find the prospect of writing another novel a rather daunting task after producing such a wonderful first work.
To learn more about the elusive M.L. Stedman, you can read the following interviews: