Friday, February 22, 2013

The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman

First, I Love (with a capital L) lighthouses.  I am drawn to them, and I always try to make an effort to visit them in my travels.  That is the first thing that caught my eye with this book.  Then came a wave of really good reviews.  Finally, the last straw arrived...my book club chose it to read for November.  I couldn't get a copy of the audio (too many holds) so I bought the book.  I was very excited. 

While the book is a moderate length (352 pages) it took me weeks to read it.  I'm always introspective about WHY it takes me so long to read some books, and I've been thinking a long time about this one.  We'll get to that.  First let me tell you a bit about the plot.

Synopsis:  Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia after four years of fighting on the Western front, damaged and haunted by the men he has killed.  In a sort of act of self-punishment, he takes a job on Janus Rock, a small island a hundred miles off the coast, to manage a lighthouse.  Tom relishes the isolation and precision of his record-keeping, and only gets a leave every other year or so.  However, on one such leave, he meets and falls in love with a young and spirited woman named Isabel, who he eventually marries and brings to his island.  The years, the harsh elements, and several miscarriages begin to wear on Isabel until a dead man and an infant wash up on the shores of Janus Rock one night.  Tom's moral compass dictates the need to report such an event, but Isabel has already taken in the baby as her own and named her Lucy.  After all, the mother must be dead, right?  To appease his beloved wife, he buries the man and stays quiet.

Years later, while on leave, Tom learns a bit more about the circumstances surrounding Lucy's birth parents, and finds that it is all more complicated than he'd ever imagined.  And he is faced with a dilemma that has the potential to destroy everything he knows and loves.  It is a decision that he will have to live with for the rest of his life.

My thoughts:  Because of my love for lighthouses, the idea of living on one, a hundred miles from civilization, is an alluring idea.  The love affair between Tom and Isabel, and a baby showing up on the beach when Isabel is at her lowest, is intriguing as well.  But.  I seriously LABORED through the first half of this book.  It could have been the distraction of my life, or it could have been a slow-moving plot.  The reading pace was just torturous for me.  Eventually, the story picked up steam and I was able to finish off strong, but there were several times when I almost threw in the towel.  

The thing is, I really did like this book.  I thought the ending was poignant and touching, and I even shed a tear.  The plot was somewhat corny at times, but ultimately heartbreaking and realistic in emotion.  I missed the book club discussion, but there was a sea or morality threaded through the pages that just begged the question "what would YOU do?".  There are no easy answers.  And because of this, the plight of Tom and Isabel and Lucy stuck with me for weeks.  I didn't always LIKE Isabel, but I could understand where she was coming from as a mother.  

So this is one of those times when it paid to stick it out.  If I'd have quit at 50 or 75 pages, I'd have missed out on a great read.

4 out of 5 stars        
      

20 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

For me, lighthouses are #3 on the list (behind clowns and circuses) of topics I avoid like the plague. Why? Beats me!!!

bermudaonion said...

I don't know what to think - I struggle with slow moving plots as well. Here's the thing though, if the book starts out slow I end up liking it so much more than if it ends up slow. I guess the ending is very important to me.

Ti said...

I adored this one. Diane warned me of the beginning, but I didn't notice it lagging for me. However, it was my last book of 2012 and I had like 2 days to read it AND review it so I plowed through it because I had to.

As you said, the story wasn't always plausible and I didn't like Isabel much of the time, but I ADORED Tom. I also adored the sister of the birth mother. She seemed to be the voice of reason.

Melissa said...

I'm glad you stuck with this one! I loved it, and didn't notice the beginning dragging. Which is good, because I'm pretty quick to walk away from a book that doesn't hold my attention these days.

JoAnn said...

I know I want to read this.. will keep your caution in mind.

Anita said...

I've got this one, someday!!

Jackie Bailey said...

I had an almost opposite reaction to you. I loved the first 50+ pages but then found the book came too light + fast paced for me. Interesting to see how our different reading tastes reacted to this one.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Whenever I don't love a book I'm always so worried that if I give up on it then it will get really good.

Zibilee said...

I haven't started this one yet, but I have it on audio, so hopefully the first part won't be that much of a slog for me. I have heard really good things about it though, so I am kind of looking forward to it.

caite said...

I am another HUGE (all caps) fan of lighthouses, but.... but I suspect I might have quit this one. Half a book read before I am liking it...don't think so.

Anna said...

It does sound like an interesting book, but the slowness puts me off.

Kathleen said...

This one is already on my list but I'll have to keep in mind that the start might drag a bit.

mynoveladdiction said...

I'm really looking forward to reading this. Good to know about the slow movement though, I'm not one to DNF, but it can be draining if I'm expecting a quick read and it turns out not to be! I've read a couple of reviews of this one and it sounds really interesting. Great review.

Nise' said...

I am listening to this on audio and it has been slow, but I was encouraged to continue.

Tasha B. said...

I've only ever been to one lighthouse (in Oregon). It was pretty interesting!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I'm glad you ended up liking this one, but it's never appealed to me much so I doubt I'll ever pick it up.

LisaMM said...

My book club picked this one for discussion, too, and we'll be reading it in a couple of months. I'm bummed to hear it was hard to get into and I hope it was just you :) I like lighthouses, too, and visited one in Cabrillo National Monument (San Diego) over winter break. It is beautiful and I love the history behind it!!

Jenny said...

It did move a little slow since it was just life with a lighthouse for a while, lol, but I'm glad you stuck with it and enjoyed it!!

Charlie said...

I'm wondering if with all the questioning (which although you thought of it must have been an aim of the author, from what you've said) didn't "help" to slow the pace down. The plot sounds really good, so it's great to hear it's a good book overall.

Jenners said...

I've been thinking I need to read this because of all the stellar reviews but good to know it was a bit slow moving. That would make it a print read for me rather than an audio.