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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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.

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.

Dec 23, 2018

Set on the lonely coast of Australia just after the end of the first World War, this is a character driven novel about the ethics of love. Stedman's writing is solid, but I completely hated her characters, and the plot wasn't deep enough to hold my interest. I won't include any spoilers, but there's one central plot device in this book and it gets very old after a few hundred pages. I can't shake the feeling that this book would have made a great short story.

Nov 18, 2018

This book starts out slowly but with purpose like a train now leaving the station. At the end of the book you are not the same person that began the book. It stimulate your thought process; it is impossible to be a passive reader. The story grabs you and draws you in..tightly and securely. It will make you ponder questions. It will teach you some life lessons. I stayed up way pass my usual bedtime because by the time I had read half the book I couldn't put it down because I wanted to know how will this end. This book is a good read.

Aug 30, 2018

I picked this book up with high hopes, only to feel a little let down.

There is quite the dilemma here. Tom and Isabel have had like 3 miscarriages and 1 stillbirth (something like that). One day a row boat drifts to Janus carrying a dead man and a baby girl, so what do they do? Well Isabel is convinced it is a sign from God, and they must keep the baby girl (named Lucy). However.... when they return to civilization with young Lucy, they found out that Lucy might actually be Grace, the missing daughter of Hannah (a local resident who lost her husband and baby girl a few short years ago to an unknown fate). And what does Isabel do? She thinks it is best to keep things a secret so no one else gets hurt and the deception to continue on the guilty conscious of Tom.

On Janus, things are simple and filled with daily rituals. Is what Isabel and Tom did right? That is very conflicting. Yes Isabel may have suffered continued heartache over the children she could never have, but to have put her family and Hannah's family through all this horrible thing may not have seemed like the best choice. But then again with a mother so desperate for a baby/child to love, who was Tom to deny her that.

When the deception finally unravels, the story got a little boring and just dragged on and on. Poor little Lucy Grace is caught between the two worlds (her life on Janus and her original life with Hannah), with no idea what is going on and how to handle the sudden shock and change.

In all honesty, I could not and gave up trying to understand and relate to Isabel. She seems so selfish and depressed. Yes she has issues, but clearly forcing Tom to help her keep the secret is not a good way to deal with this issue. Tom is a good guy, he tries so hard to make things right now that the war is over, but he is too much of a doormat when going up against Isabel.

The ending. Meh. I could honestly take it or leave it, I really didn't care what happened to them in the end

Apr 18, 2018

Newly-wed WWII veteran Tom Sherburne takes the position of lighthouse keeper on a remote coastal Australian island with his wife in order to regain a sense of peace and stability.
After wife Isabel suffers two miscarriages and a still-birth; the couple's life together is set in turmoil as Isabel discovers a yawl containing a dead man and a crying infant washed on shore after a gale. Moral and ethical decisions, individually, and as a couple, confront them as a decision is made to keep the baby as their own. They are faced with the implications of their choices upon returning to the main-land to visit family two years later and coming into contact with the infant's biological mother. This is a heart-breaking, soul-searching read in which the reader empathizes with all the main characters.

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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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