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Theodore Lewis
Theodore Lewis

The Light Between Oceans: A Captivating and Emotional Debut Novel

The Light Between Oceans - M. L. Stedman (August 2012,Epub, Mobi)

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you found a baby on a deserted island? Would you keep it as your own or return it to its rightful parents? How would your decision affect your life and the lives of others? These are some of the questions that M. L. Stedman explores in her debut novel, The Light Between Oceans.

The Light Between Oceans - M. L. Stedman (August 2012,Epub, Mobi)


In this section, I will give you a brief overview of what the book is about, who the author is, and why you should read it.

What is the book about?

The Light Between Oceans is a historical fiction novel set in Australia in the years after World War I. It tells the story of Tom Sherbourne, a war veteran who becomes a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a remote island off the coast of Western Australia. There, he meets and marries Isabel Graysmark, a young woman from the nearby town of Partageuse. Their life is happy and peaceful until one day they discover a boat washed up on their shore, carrying a dead man and a crying baby girl. Isabel, who has suffered three miscarriages and a stillbirth, convinces Tom to keep the baby as their own and name her Lucy. Tom reluctantly agrees, but soon feels guilty about his choice. He finds out that the baby's real mother, Hannah Roennfeldt, is still alive and grieving for her lost husband and daughter in Partageuse. Tom and Isabel's decision sets in motion a series of events that will have devastating consequences for themselves and everyone involved.

Who is the author?

Margot Louise "M. L." Stedman is an Australian-born writer who currently lives in London. She was born and raised in Western Australia, where she studied law and literature at the University of Western Australia. She worked as a lawyer in London for several years before becoming a full-time writer. The Light Between Oceans is her first novel, which she wrote over four years while working part-time as a legal editor. She was inspired by her visits to lighthouses in Australia and New Zealand, as well as by her interest in moral dilemmas and human emotions.

Why should you read it?

You should read The Light Between Oceans if you enjoy stories that are:

  • Engaging and captivating: The book has a compelling plot that keeps you turning the pages until the end. You will be immersed in the vivid descriptions of the island, the lighthouse, and the characters' lives.

  • Emotional and moving: The book explores themes such as love, loss, guilt, forgiveness, loyalty, and justice. You will feel for the characters and their struggles, and you might even shed some tears along the way.

  • Thought-provoking and challenging: The book raises ethical questions that have no easy answers. You will be forced to think about what you would do in the same situation, and how far you would go to protect your family.

Summary and analysis

In this section, I will give you a detailed summary and analysis of the book, divided into three parts and ten chapters each. I will also highlight some of the important quotes and passages from the book.

Part One: The Parting of the Ways

This part introduces the main characters and their backgrounds, and sets up the main conflict of the story.

Chapter 1-5

The book begins with a prologue that describes the moment when Tom and Isabel find the boat with the baby on their island. It then flashes back to 1918, when Tom returns from the war and applies for a job as a lighthouse keeper. He is assigned to Janus Rock, a remote and isolated island that is only visited by a supply boat every three months. He enjoys the solitude and the routine of his work, and he keeps a detailed logbook of his observations and activities. He also writes letters to his parents, who live in Sydney, and to his brother, who died in the war.

On one of his shore leaves, he meets Isabel Graysmark, a spirited and adventurous young woman who lives in Partageuse with her parents and two brothers. They are instantly attracted to each other, and they exchange letters while Tom is on the island. They get married in 1920, and Isabel moves to Janus Rock with Tom. They are happy and in love, and they look forward to starting a family.

However, their happiness is soon shattered by Isabel's miscarriages. She loses her first baby at three months, her second baby at four months, and her third baby at seven months. She becomes depressed and desperate, and she blames herself for her failures. Tom tries to comfort her and support her, but he feels helpless and frustrated. He also feels guilty for surviving the war while his brother and many of his friends died.

Some of the important quotes from these chapters are:

  • "You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day." (Tom's father to Tom, Chapter 1)

  • "You don't think ahead in years or months: you think about this hour, and maybe the next. Anything else is speculation." (Tom's thoughts on surviving the war, Chapter 2)

  • "He watches her as she sleeps: sees how her brow is knitted even now; how her fingers twitch as if she's trying to hold on to something." (Tom's observation of Isabel after her third miscarriage, Chapter 5)

Chapter 6-10

These chapters describe the day when Tom and Isabel find the boat with the baby on their island. It is April 27th, 1926, two weeks after Isabel's third miscarriage. Tom hears a cry from the shore, and he goes to investigate. He sees a small boat with a dead man and a living baby girl wrapped in a woman's cardigan. He carries them to the lighthouse, where Isabel wakes up and sees them. She is overjoyed by the sight of the baby, and she begs Tom to let them keep her as their own. She believes that it is a sign from God, and that no one will ever know or claim her.

Tom is torn between his love for Isabel and his sense of duty as a lighthouse keeper. He knows that he should report the incident to the authorities, but he also knows that it would break Isabel's heart to lose another child. He decides to bury the dead man on the island, without checking his identity or belongings. He also agrees to keep the baby for one night, hoping that Isabel will change her mind in the morning.

However, Isabel does not change her mind. She names the baby Lucy, after her own grandmother. She feeds her, bathes her, dresses her, and sings to her. She acts as if she is her real mother, and she bonds with her instantly. Tom feels conflicted and guilty, but he also feels a connection with Lucy. He decides to go along with Isabel's plan, but he makes sure to record everything in his logbook.

Some of the important quotes from these chapters are:

  • "He allows himself to be swayed by her happiness; he doesn't want it to slip away again." (Tom's thoughts on agreeing with Isabel's plan, Chapter 7)

Part Two: The Isabel Letters

This part reveals the backstory of the baby's real parents and their fate, and shows how Tom and Isabel's decision affects their lives and the lives of others.

Chapter 11-15

The book flashes back to 1918, when Hannah Roennfeldt, a young Jewish woman from Germany, arrives in Partageuse with her father, who is a pianist. They are escaping from the anti-Semitism and violence in their homeland. They settle in a cottage near the town, where Hannah teaches piano lessons to the local children. She meets Frank Roennfeldt, a German baker who also came to Australia before the war. They fall in love and get married, despite the disapproval and prejudice of the townspeople, who see them as enemies and traitors.

They have a daughter, whom they name Grace. They are happy and devoted to each other, but they also face hardships and discrimination. Frank is unable to find work as a baker, and he resorts to odd jobs and gambling. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his experiences in the war. He becomes restless and unhappy, and he longs for a better life for his family. He decides to take Hannah and Grace on a boat trip to visit his cousin in Geraldton, hoping to find a new opportunity there.

However, their boat trip turns into a nightmare. They encounter a storm that damages their boat and injures Frank. They drift for days without food or water, until they reach Janus Rock. They see the lighthouse, but they are too weak to signal for help. Frank dies from his wounds, and Hannah passes out from exhaustion. She wakes up to find that Grace is gone, along with the woman's cardigan that she wrapped her in. She sees Tom on the shore, but he does not see her. She thinks that he has taken her baby, and she screams at him. He hears her scream, but he thinks that it is a seagull. He leaves with the baby and the boat, leaving Hannah behind.

Some of the important quotes from these chapters are:

  • "She felt that if she could just get through this war, she could cope with anything." (Hannah's thoughts on surviving in Partageuse, Chapter 11)

  • "He wanted to give them everything - everything he'd never had." (Frank's thoughts on providing for his family, Chapter 13)

  • "She felt as though she were watching herself from somewhere else - as though it were someone else's life." (Hannah's thoughts on losing her husband and daughter, Chapter 15)

Chapter 16-20

These chapters describe how Hannah survives on Janus Rock until she is rescued by a passing ship. She is taken to a hospital in Albany, where she recovers from her ordeal. She learns that her father has died of a heart attack while she was missing, and that he has left her his fortune and his cottage. She also learns that Tom and Isabel have claimed her daughter as their own, and that they have named her Lucy.

Hannah is devastated and furious by this news. She hires a lawyer named Ralph Addicott to help her get her daughter back. She also writes letters to Tom and Isabel, demanding that they return Lucy to her. She threatens to sue them for kidnapping and murder if they refuse.

Tom receives Hannah's letters while he is on shore leave with Isabel and Lucy. He is shocked and scared by Hannah's accusations and demands. He realizes that he has made a terrible mistake by keeping Lucy, and that he has caused harm to Hannah and her family. He feels guilty and remorseful, but he also loves Lucy as his own daughter. He does not know what to do or say to Isabel.

Isabel does not receive Hannah's letters until she returns to Janus Rock with Lucy. She is outraged and terrified by Hannah's claims and threats. She does not believe that Hannah is Lucy's real mother, and she does not want to give up Lucy to anyone. She thinks that Hannah is lying and scheming to take Lucy away from her. She convinces herself that Lucy belongs to her and Tom, and that they have done nothing wrong.

Some of the important quotes from these chapters are:

  • "She felt as though she had been given back nothing - less than nothing." (Hannah's thoughts on finding out that Tom and Isabel have her daughter, Chapter 16)

  • "He felt as though he had been split in two: the man who wanted to do the right thing, and the man who wanted to protect his family." (Tom's thoughts on receiving Hannah's letters, Chapter 18)

  • "She felt as though she had been stabbed in the heart - as though someone had tried to rip Lucy from her arms." (Isabel's thoughts on receiving Hannah's letters, Chapter 20)

Part Three: The Return

This part shows the aftermath of Tom and Isabel's decision and how it affects their lives and the lives of others.

Chapter 21-25

These chapters describe how Tom and Isabel are confronted by the authorities and the public for their actions. Tom decides to take the blame for everything, and he writes a confession letter to Hannah. He also writes a farewell letter to Isabel, telling her that he loves her and Lucy, but that he has to do the right thing. He leaves both letters in his logbook, along with his wedding ring, and he mails them to Ralph Addicott.

Ralph receives Tom's letters and his logbook, and he contacts the police. He also informs Hannah of Tom's confession and apology. Hannah is surprised and touched by Tom's gesture, but she is still determined to get Lucy back. She agrees to drop the charges against Tom if he returns Lucy to her.

The police arrest Tom and take him to Albany, where he is interrogated by a detective named Harry Garstone. Garstone is suspicious and hostile towards Tom, and he accuses him of lying and covering up for Isabel. He also questions him about Frank's death, implying that he might have killed him or let him die. Tom denies any wrongdoing, and he sticks to his story.

Meanwhile, Isabel receives a visit from a constable named Evan Macdonald, who tells her that Tom has been arrested and that Lucy has been claimed by her real mother. He also tells her that she has to give up Lucy to Hannah, or else she will face criminal charges as well. Isabel is shocked and devastated by this news. She refuses to believe that Tom has confessed or that Hannah is Lucy's real mother. She clings to Lucy, and she begs Macdonald to leave them alone.

Some of the important quotes from these chapters are:

  • "He felt as though he had betrayed them both - as though he had broken his vows to Isabel and his promise to Lucy." (Tom's thoughts on writing his confession letter, Chapter 21)

  • "She felt as though she had been betrayed by everyone - by Tom, by Hannah, by the law, by God." (Isabel's thoughts on finding out that Tom has confessed and that Hannah has claimed Lucy, Chapter 23)

  • "He felt as though he had no choice - as though he had to sacrifice himself for the sake of his family." (Tom's thoughts on being interrogated by Garstone, Chapter 25)

Chapter 26-30

These chapters describe how Tom and Isabel are separated from Lucy and how they cope with their loss. Tom is released from custody after Hannah drops the charges against him. He is reunited with Isabel, who is still angry and bitter towards him for confessing. She blames him for ruining their lives and taking Lucy away from them. She tells him that she hates him and that she wants a divorce.

Tom is hurt and confused by Isabel's words, but he understands her pain and anger. He still loves her, but he respects her wishes. He leaves her alone, and he moves back to Sydney with his parents. He tries to move on with his life, but he misses Isabel and Lucy terribly. He also feels guilty for hurting Hannah and Grace.

Isabel is forced to give up Lucy to Hannah, who takes her back to Partageuse. She is heartbroken and resentful by this change. She hates Hannah for taking Lucy away from her, and she hates herself for letting her go. She also misses Tom, but she is too proud and stubborn to admit it. She stays with her parents in Partageuse, where she becomes isolated and depressed.

Lucy is confused and unhappy by this change. She does not recognize Hannah as her mother, and she does not remember Grace as her name. She cries for Isabel and Tom, whom she calls Mama and Papa. She rejects Hannah's attempts to bond with her, and she resists her efforts to change her appearance and behavior. She feels lost and lonely in a strange place.

after years of suffering and searching. She loves Grace with all her heart, and she wants to make her happy and comfortable. She tries to be patient and gentle with her, and she hopes that she will eventually accept her and love her back. She also feels sorry for Tom and Isabel, and she understands their pain and guilt. She does not hate them or blame them for what they did.

Some of the important quotes from these chapters are:

  • "She felt as though she had lost everything - as though her life had been shattered into pieces." (Isabel's thoughts on giving up Lucy to Hannah, Chapter 26)

  • "He felt as though he had gained nothing - as though his life had been emptied of meaning." (Tom's thoughts on being released from custody and leaving Isabel, Chapter 27)

  • "She felt as though she had found everything - as though her life had been restored to wholeness." (Hannah's thoughts on getting Grace back from Tom and Isabel, Chapter 28)

Themes and symbols

In this section, I will discuss some of the major themes and symbols that the book explores.

The light between oceans

The title of the book refers to the location of Janus Rock, which lies between the Indian Ocean and the Great Southern Ocean. It also refers to the moral ambiguity and complexity that the characters face in their decisions and actions. The book shows that there is no clear right or wrong, good or bad, black or white in life. There is only a light between oceans, a gray area where people have to make choices based on their circumstances, emotions, values, and beliefs.

The boat and the lighthouse

The boat and the lighthouse are two symbols that represent the contrast between movement and stability, freedom and confinement, change and routine in the book. The boat is a symbol of movement, freedom, and change. It allows Frank and Hannah to escape from their troubles and seek a new life. It also brings Lucy to Tom and Isabel, changing their lives forever. However, the boat is also a symbol of danger, uncertainty, and loss. It exposes Frank and Hannah to the perils of the sea and the storm. It also takes Lucy away from Tom and Isabel, causing them grief and guilt.

The lighthouse is a symbol of stability, confinement, and routine. It provides Tom with a job, a home, and a purpose. It also protects him from the horrors of the war and the chaos of the world. However, the lighthouse is also a symbol of isolation, restriction, and monotony. It separates Tom from his family, his friends, and his society. It also limits his choices, his opportunities, and his happiness.

The baby and the music box

The baby and the music box are two symbols that represent the themes of love, loss, identity, and memory in the book. The baby is a symbol of love and loss for both Hannah and Isabel. For Hannah, the baby is her only child, her precious daughter, her reason for living. She loves her more than anything in the world, and she loses her in a tragic way. For Isabel, the baby is her miracle child, her adopted daughter, her gift from God. She loves her as if she were her own flesh and blood, and she loses her in a cruel way.

and Lucy. For Grace, the music box is her inheritance, her birthright, her connection to her parents. It is the only thing that she has left from them, and it reminds her of who she is and where she comes from. For Lucy, the music box is her treasure, her comfort, her link to her past. It is the only thing that she has from her life on Janus Rock, and it reminds her of what she had and what she lost.

Reviews and reception

In this section, I will give you a summary of the reviews and reception that the book received from critics and readers.

Critical acclaim and awards

The book received critical acclaim and awards from various sources and organizations. It was praised for its captivating plot, its rich characters, its beautiful prose, and its emotional impact. It was also commended for its exploration of moral dilemmas, historical contexts, and human emotions. Some of the awards that the book won or was nominated for are:

  • The Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize) in 2013

The Indie Book Awards for Debut Fiction and Book of the Yea




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