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Monday, May 12, 2014

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans: Visually Stunning and Emotionally Harrowing

     The Light Between Oceans (2012), a first novel by Australian writer M.L. Stedman, has become a bestseller since its publication last year. Stedman is a lawyer who now lives in London, England.
     This novel is a visually stunning & emotionally harrowing love story with a moral dilemma at its centre. It is set initially on a fictional remote island off Australia in the years following WWI. A lighthouse keeper & his wife, Tom & Isabel, find a boat washed ashore after a storm, with a dead man & 2-month old infant in it. Isabel, childless, has had 2 miscarriages & has just buried a stillborn child. The rest of the novel deals with what happens after they decide to raise the child as their own, a decision which alters the course of their lives & affects the lives of many others. An emotionally complex story, you are made to feel the same inner conflict as Tom & Isabel. I guarantee you will have trouble putting it down.
     Stedman gives detailed descriptions of the inner workings of a lighthouse & what life in a remote lighthouse was like. But it is her creation of very difficult scenarios, with many grey areas, which make the novel so compelling & suspenseful until the end. To her credit, the author has resisted the temptation of resolving the story in an overly tidy fashion.  Every character has had to make tough choices.
     A great first novel & a great read. It is no surprise that Dreamworks motion picture studio is in the process acquiring the rights to the book.

Diana Inselberg is a retired librarian and resident of Enderby, who has worked at various Okanagan Regional Library branches.

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