The Light Between Oceans

A review of the book by M. L. Steadman.

At the end of the first world war, a young Australian, Tom Sherbourn, trying to forget the horrors he witnessed and took part in takes a job on the lighthouses.

Hoping to lay to rest away from people, the ghosts and shadows of his wartime military service, he first becomes a relief lighthouse keeper then later becomes the permanent keeper of the Janus Point lighthouse, from which the book gets its title, set between the Indian Ocean and the Great Southern Ocean.

While on shore leave from his lighthouse, Tom marries a local girl from Point Partageuse, Isabel (Izzy) Graysmark who later joins him on the lighthouse,the couple leading an isolated but seemingly not lonely life there, although Izzy seems unfulfilled.

Like any couple they have their ups-and-downs until one day everything is thrown into disarray, when a small boat, with a dead man and a live baby washes up on the shore of Janus island. The arrival sets in train a series of events from a devastating decision, about which Tom never gets over his unease, and eventually has cataclysmic effects.

This is not a story that I really enjoyed and yet I found it compelling enough to want to finish the book. Maybe that’s the mark of a good writer, someone who can keep you reading even though you do not particularly enjoy the story. The quality of writing and story telling were good, even though I did not like the story itself much.

I’m afraid I found some elements of the story a little predictable. The book has a section before chapter one, the title of which is simply a date, 27th April 1926. If you are a fairly perceptive reader, then I would suggest you skip over that section. I read it and although it did not state explicitly, it implied enough information that I was able to forsee at least one element of what was to come later. A quite important element.

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


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