I just finished this book. Like, just finished it, made myself a pot of tea and sat down to contemplate my review. I want to write this now, full of all my feelings about this beautiful but heart-breaking book. The Light Between Oceans follows Tom, home from the war and sailing off to his new job manning the lighthouse on Janus Rock, an island off the coast of Western Australia straddling the Indian Ocean and the Great Southern Ocean. The story follows his courting of Isabel, the Headmaster’s daughter, who he eventually marries and they settle happily into married life on the solitary island. Time passes by until the fateful day when a dinghy washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying baby. Isabel convinces Tom that the best thing they can do is keep the baby and raise her as their own, what are the chances her mother still survives? What follows are the consequences of their actions.
The first half of the book sets the scene beautifully. You are introduced to the characters and settle into their daily lives. Tom is a great character. He is steadfast, loyal and has the kindest heart. I instantly warmed to him and loved him throughout the book. In fact I was so attached to his character I found myself feeling incredibly frustrated and angry at times throughout the book with certain plot points. Always hoping for the best for him I took it personally when he experienced injustices. Who is not to love the distinct aussie-ness in his tone? When we meet Isabel she is bright, fun and has such an infectious personality that you can see how Tom falls in love with her. Her character experiences much over the course of the novel and my opinions of her shifted back and forth throughout the book. The host of supporting characters are loveable and unique: Bluey, Ralph, Hannah, all are well-developed and memorable.
The second half of the book picks up the pace considerably. In fact you could almost think of the book in terms of the two oceans that straddle Janus Island. The first half is the warm, calm Indian Ocean. Everything going along (fairly) swimmingly. The second half is like the Great Southern Ocean: wild, harsh and unpredictable. Basically the plot gets going sending our beloved characters lives into turmoil and all we can do is sit back and watch them try and navigate the waters as best they can (see what I did there??). The rest of the book moves quickly with some great plot twists and turns leaving you with just the right amount of suspense. All culminating in an ending that was beautiful and gives you faith in the human race.
This book left me in tears contemplating the intertwined lives of all the characters. Life is hard and deals you swift blows that can knock you off your feet. All you can do is react and the choice is yours as to how you proceed. The actions of the characters shows human nature on all its levels, the highs and the lows. I applaud Stedman in creating such an intricate, layered story that is truly is about “right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same”. I give The Light Between Oceans four lights to guide the way.