With 27 out of 30 reviewers rating it 4 or 5 stars, Margot L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans is a top pick among BookBrowse readers! Here's what they have to say:
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It's literary fiction set in Australia after WWI with fully developed characters and poetic descriptions of physical and emotional aspects of life (Mary P). Margot L. Stedman brings Tom and Isabel, two flawed, desperate but likable people, alive in the pages of her book, weaving a compelling and morally complex story that will keep readers mesmerized until the very last page (Amy M). This is a great book. I never before thought about lighthouses except in terms of their usefulness in days gone by. I hadn't thought about the men who worked in them, their families, their loneliness, or their absolute dedication to their responsibilities. But this book is more than history, it's a story of love, selflessness and selfishness. The characters are amazing, and I found myself struggling over who I sided with the most, and I wondered, if I were in their places, would I make my choices with my heart or my conscience? I can't wait to discuss this with my book club (G. Bridget Davis).
This is a wonderful exploration of life, love and responsibility. I highly recommend this book (Barbara E). This story drew me in from the first page. Compelling and provocative, it raises many questions about right and wrong, and the human heart's capacity for love and forgiveness. Gorgeously written - the people and settings spring to life from the pages - it's really an amazing first novel from this author. I hope to see more from her in the future (Lisa M). A perfect novel - not to be missed (Nikki M). Quiet controlled prose creates a sense of time and place inhabited by real people. There are no heroes or villains. Just regular folk who have to live with the consequences of their decisions in a world that is, after all, never fair (Shirin M).
Some readers were enthralled by the emotions and complex decisions that Stedman's characters faced:
The Light Between Oceans is beautifully written and will leave you thinking about the characters' choices and decisions for a long time after you put the book down (Judy T). The writing captured the desperation and emotions of each character to the point that I found myself sobbing. I will be pondering this book for a while (Teresa H). As I became involved with the characters I was surprised that I wasn't always able to determine where blame should be placed. I empathized with them in their struggle and hoped for their redemption (Karen S). I appreciated the descriptive passages celebrating western Australia and the art of lighthouse keeping. The tension of whether the Sherbourne's secret would be discovered was enough to keep me reading to the end. As a foster parent, I found the topic of a small child's home and family being determined by various biased parties to be accurately portrayed but sometimes a bit too close to home (Stacey). I was brought to tears many times as Isabelle and Tom reach their own moving choices (Carol P)! This is a love story gone awry because of love itself... There is no solution to this moral drama, but you are compelled to watch it - like a car wreck.
While others enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the landscape:
As good historical fiction is supposed to do, this book introduced me to several new topics, namely, everything I ever wanted to know about lighthouses, and also the deeply felt impact of far-away World War I on the citizens of a small coastal Australian town. At the heart of the well-drawn plot and characters is a terrible moral dilemma, and the ramifications and heartbreak of the solution to the problem. As a mother who knows the pain of pregnancy loss and miscarriage, Isabel and Tom's story resonated with me and kept me up reading late at night until I had finished the novel. Stedman's writing and use of metaphor is skillful, and the reader can feel the emptiness and solitude of life alone at the edge of the world, the profound darkness of the ocean relieved by the lighthouse, and the tremendous longing and loss that can only be relieved by hope eternal (Rebecca E).
Stedman's descriptions of the island and of the beloved lighthouse are so vivid that you can smell the salt sea, the polish, and the vapor. Overall, a fine novel - and an amazing debut. I look forward to her next endeavor (Deborah M). This novel has all the elements of a great read. The poetic language carried me to a lonely lighthouse miles from land where I could almost feel the wind and hear the waves crashing. "The wind pounced on him like a predator..." and "The water sloshed like white paint, milky-thick..." Light vs. darkness was used throughout the novel as a metaphor for choices made and their consequences. The characters were so richly drawn that I became emotionally involved with them, caring deeply for what they were going through. But most of all, this is just such a good story. It pulled me in and kept me guessing until the very end (Loretta F).
However, a couple of readers found room for small improvements:
The characters were engaging but not complex; a more nuanced exploration would have made the plot less predictable (MaryAnn W). The intricacies of the plot keep the pages turning, the breathtaking descriptions keep us firmly inside place and story, and the complex and well-drawn characters keep us hoping for the best, even in the darkest moments. The only elements that drew me out of the story were tense switches, which I found jarring and unnecessary, and sections of point-of-view switches that I feel took attention away from the central story... These were not fatal flaws, however. The book is engaging, well-wrought, and above all, a book of substance. It is a book I will remember (Naomi B).
Who should read this book?:
This debut novel was very enjoyable and is a great choice for a book club, as it has potential for some deep and meaningful discussions (Karen S). I recommend this book for young adults (Carol P). The Light Between Oceans struck me as a female book club choice. It also qualifies as a slightly meaty beach read (Stacey). I will be recommending this novel to my book club, to all my friends, and to anyone who enjoys getting lost in a good book (Loretta F).
This review was originally published in August 2012, and has been updated for the April 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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