The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans

Book - 2016
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"After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day's journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby's cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a "gift from God," and against Tom's judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them."--Page 4 of cover
Publisher: New York :, Pocket Books,, 2016.
Edition: First Pocket Books paperback edition.
Copyright Date: ©2012
ISBN: 9781501127977
Branch Call Number: FICTION Stedman M.L.
Characteristics: 409 pages ;,19 cm


From Library Staff

An Australian work about a lighthouse keeper and his wife...and the baby they find abandoned in a storm-tossed sea.

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Mar 01, 2021

Beautiful book! Well written leaving the reader fully knowing what it is to live the human experience in all its splendor and adversities. Wish I read the book before watching the movie. The writer offered wonderful insight into the characters' emotional journeys, not portrayed well in the film by Fassbender's role. Alicia Vikander was amazing as Isabel. The location was spot on.

Aug 29, 2020

A lighthouse keeper and his wife find a wrecked boat with a dead man and a baby inside and make decisions that have far-reaching effects. Movie also.

Jul 08, 2020

It is often difficult to choose between what is morally correct and what makes one truly happy, even if that happiness comes at the expense of others. This is the situation for Tom and his young wife, Isabel, find themselves in throughout the course M.L. Stedman’s bittersweet novel, The Light Between Oceans. In the aftermath of the destructive events of World War I, war veteran Tom Sherbourne takes on his new profession as a lighthouse keeper, comfortable in the silence and calm that the job provides. After marrying Isabel, a local girl who breaks down the walls Tom has constructed around him, the two are unable to start a family of their own due to a series of miscarriages. One day, a rowboat appears on the shores of Janus Rock, containing a dead man and a baby. It seems as though their prayers had been answered, as they would be able to raise the child as their own if they neglected to inform the authorities. From there, the two embark on a tumultuous journey filled with inner uncertainty, confusion, and guilt, only exacerbated when details and clues arise that threaten their happiness.

This novel was a refreshing change from stories that have predictable endings, romances, and events. I enjoyed Stedman’s vividly descriptive writing, especially the flawed characters. The readers receive a direct account of the thought process and justifications of an act that is seen as inherently malicious, as they can truly understand the difficulty of making such a decision. Readers are able to empathize with this broken couple throughout their trials and are even able to question what they would do in such a situation. The book disproves the notion that everything can be settled by seeing things simply in black and white. Instead, we should learn to recognize that shades of gray lie everywhere in between, for it is often there that we find our true answers.

I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy thought-provoking stories. However, this is not the right story for those who are entertained by more action-filled novels. Overall, this is an amazingly well-written novel that questions the morality of characters, providing insight into an atypical, yet engaging, circumstance.

Age rating: 13+
Star rating: 5 stars

Apr 20, 2020

Tom and Isabel Sherbourne live a relatively isolated life on an island off the Australian coast where Tom is a lighthouse keeper. To their astonishment a boat washes ashore with a baby inside. Isabel, who previously suffered several devastating miscarriages, accepts this miraculous event as a sign and a gift. Though not entirely without misgivings, the couple decides to tell no one about the baby, and to raise the little girl as their own.

This novel would make excellent discussion for a book group; there is much to talk about with respect to ethics, law and unintended consequences. I had a difficult time putting it down.

Feb 25, 2020

A thought provoking story. I kept wondering what I would do in that situation. The author does a great job of setting up the characters and their backgrounds so you really understand why they chose to do what they did. The theme of being caught between two places, two people, two decisions is woven throughout. An interesting story and fast read.

Andreevan1 Jul 17, 2019

The novel is a slow-paced read at first, building the main characters' lives brick by brick, whereas the pace and intensity pick up in the second half of the book as the plot thickens. The last few chapters leave you in tears and pondering over your own life and the decision you made. A wonderful read overall.

Jul 14, 2019

Tom is a damaged Australian WWI war hero who returns with no hope for his life. He goes into the Lighthouse Service hoping the isolation will be a balm. He unexpectedly meets Isabel, the love of his life, they marry and take up residence on Janus, a remote rocky island with only themselves and the lighthouse as inhabitants. A baby shockingly washes up ashore in a small boat and Isabel, half-crazed by a series of miscarriages, manipulates Tom into keeping the baby against his conscience.

While there is some lovely descriptive language at times and Stedman has a defter hand at creating some minor characters than her primary protagonists, to me this was a dressed up Jodi Picoult type (will they be found out? who will get the baby?? keep turning those pages!) book with some literary pretensions. Considering its reputation as a well-written weepfest, I was unmoved. But I certainly wanted to know what would happen next.

Feb 01, 2019

This is a lovely historical fiction heartbreak of a novel, set in Western Australia in the few decades following WWI. It's well-written, with a slow, contemplative pace and plenty of tugs on the heartstrings. The author clearly did their research regarding Australia's lighthouses, and what life in a small coastal town in that era must have been like. I enjoyed it, and only removed a star because while the MC (Tom) is really well-rounded, I felt like Isabel only became a character with autonomy as a reaction to the existence of Lucy, which meant that she never felt like a real character to me. And maybe that was the point (that Isabel had character and life beneath the surface only as a mother), but I would've liked to have connected more to her.

Jan 30, 2019

I am somewhat conflicted in my response to this book. I should perhaps deal first with what it was that troubled me about it. First, it's manipulative of the reader's emotions and for me, that's difficult to forgive. Second, the plot is almost entirely predictable. Third (and perhaps less troubling) is that the thing is a bare-faced morality play, which may not sit well with many readers. A morality play demands a light touch, and here it's done in a manipulative fashion.
But in most other respects, it's a very well written book, particularly so when we consider that this is Ms. Stedman's first published novel. The writing is straightforward and unadorned but entirely appropriate to the subject matter, setting and characters. In places, her style reminded me of that of Kent Haruf (and in my book, that's high praise). The setting (West Australia), era (post WW One) and vernacular (Aussie but never overdone) are all bang-on. Finally, regarding the plot: I believe most readers will either love it or hate it (mostly for the reasons stated above). I give Ms. Stedman credit for having managed to place her main protagonists (in both families) in a situation where there is no acceptable solution; this cannot possibly end well. As to how she resolves it? I will say no more; let every reader decide for themselves whether she has been successful.

Jan 23, 2019

This is a From Sister book I have. Story of a lighthouse-keeper w/wife on a remote island lighthouse between Australia's South Sea and the Indian Ocean. A shipwrecked dead man and live baby wash ashore, leaving the man to grapple with his sense of duty and doing the right thing, all while doing the right thing for his wife who wants to keep the baby. Surprisingly? shit happens!

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Dec 18, 2018

A heart wrenching story of love, loss and life

Jun 14, 2017


Aug 13, 2016

"She's a beauty all right" said Tom, taking in the giant lens, far taller than himself, atop the rotating pedestal: a palace of prisms like a beehive made from glass. It was the very heart of Janus, all light and clarity and silence."

Nov 03, 2012

“You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.”


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Dec 03, 2015

LauraSteinert thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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