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Light Between Oceans

Light Between Oceans

Tom Sherbourne has returned to Australia after four years serving on the Western front.  He has been traumatised by his experiences there and can't come to terms with the fact that he is alive when so many of his comrades have died.  He trains to be a lighthouse keeper and when he is asked to take up a temporary post as keeper of the light on the small remote island of Janus Rock he accepts.  While waiting in Point Partageuse for the boat to take him out to Janus Rock he meets Isobel Graysmark (Izzy).  They strike up a friendship and exchange letters via the supply boat.  Over time the relationship develops and they marry.

Tom has now been appointed as the permanent keeper on Janus.  The island has provided him with the peace and solitude he craved after the horrors of war.  He carries out his duties with meticulous care attending to the light and filling in the log each day.  He is worried that Izzy will not cope with the isolation but she settles in to life on the island and enjoys living there as much as Tom does.  However their happiness is marred by their lack of a family.  Izzy has had two miscarriages and when the novel opens she has just buried her stillborn baby.  When a small boat washes up on the island with a dead man and a live baby girl in it Izzy sees it as a miracle.  She persuades Tom not to report it immediately to the mainland and against his better judgement he agrees.  She has had three unsuccessful pregnancies and is in a very fragile mental and physical condition and he is fearful for her health.  Izzy names the baby Lucy and the decision is made that they will pass the child of as their own.  Tom buries the man's body and sends a signal to the mainland that Izzy has given birth to a baby girl.

All is well, Lucy thrives and they live happily on the island.  Their only contact with the outside world is the three monthly visit of the supply boat.  When Tom's leave is due they return to the mainland and it is then they find out that Lucy's birth mother (Hannah) is alive.  Hannah has lost both her husband and child and she has never recovered from her loss.  Their decision has destroyed her life.  Tom is wracked with guilt while Izzy argues that they must keep up the pretence for Lucy's sake.  As the truth unfolds their decision affects so many lives with devastating consequences.  It is a heart breaking story of love, loss and loyalty.

The descriptions of the island were good and the characters well drawn.  Some of the group felt that the book was slow in parts and could have been shorter but others felt that that echoed the tedium of life on the island.  The description of the day to day maintenance of the light was interesting  and  informative.  One of our group felt it was over sentimental. Most were glad they had read it.               

This is  M L Stedman's first novel.                                               

Review by Anne Strang