A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision. They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.
What an opener from this Australian writer. First-time novels don’t come much more assured, readable, and utterly compelling in their storyline than this one.
M L Stedman has created an extraordinarily intense world of foaming, crashing sea and diamond-bright light, be it from the eponymous lighthouse that glows and pulses where two great oceans meet, or the sub-tropical skies above them.
assured, readable, and utterly compelling
The themes of this irresistible tale are as fundamental as the elements themselves. The sometimes paper-thin difference between right and wrong; how tragedy and grief can lead to temptation - in particular, the temptation to see a redeeming stroke of fate as something more; something meant... perhaps even a miracle.
Stedman’s tale begins in April 1926. It is not spring, though, but autumn. The Light Between Oceans is set in the southern hemisphere, off the coast of south-west Australia.
Janus Rock is a lonely speck of land far out to sea. And it lies in treacherous waters; dangerous rocks lurk just below the surface. Which is why the tiny island is home to a magnificent lighthouse, built in the 19th century after a series of fatal wrecks.
Ninety years ago, lighthouses were far from being the automatic, high-tech installations of today. They had to be continuously manned and maintained. Janus Rock is seen as a hard posting, its keeper marooned there for months at a time.
It will be First World War hero Tom Sherbourne’s new home; he is the next keeper of the light.
The young man doesn’t know it, but his decision to go there will have devastating consequences – and not just for him.
Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia from the horrors of the trenches in France. He is a reluctant hero, desperately searching for some kind of peace and tranquillity after his gruesome ordeal on the other side of the world.
a reluctant hero, desperately searching for some kind of peace
He joins the lighthouse service, and after short-lived postings he sees the opportunity for solitude and loneliness that his soul craves – the job of full-time keeper on Janus Rock. The island was the last piece of Australia Tom saw when his troopship sailed for Europe; he has a powerful sense that it is his destiny to return there.
But while waiting impatiently in the port of Partageuse for transport to the island, Tom meets Isobel Graysmark, beautiful young daughter of the town’s headmaster. The couple are strongly attracted, and write increasingly affectionate letters to each other when Tom finally makes it to his island.
Inevitably the couple marry during Tom’s shore leave and an enthusiastic Isobel – ‘Izzy’ – insists on embarking on a new life on Janus Rock with her husband. She loves the wild beauty of the place and the couple are idyllically happy there, especially when Izzy falls pregnant.
She loses the baby. Grief and despair follow... until the April morning when a boat washes ashore on Janus. Inside is the body of a dead man – and a mewling baby.
Tom tells Izzy that he must report the matter at once. But she begs him not to; Tom can see that nursing the tiny child is washing away his wife’s grief and brings her a radiant happiness.
For now. Tom and Izzy have followed their hearts – but rules have been broken. A terrible price must be paid.
WHSmith Bonus Content for The Light Between Oceans
Other 2013 Summer Book Club Titles
- The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Simon Mawer
- The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke
- Tigers In Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
- This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon
- The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
- The Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter
- Natural Causes by James Oswald
- Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie
- The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence