A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it
**sidenote** this is a random picture I took of a lighthouse, not the one depicted in the book on Janus Rock.
If you don’t know what this novel is about, it’s about a lighthouse keeper off of Janus Rock in Australia and his wife Isabelle, who have been unable to have children and have had 2 misscarriages and a stillbirth. This leaves Isabelle distraught as she wants nothing more than a family of her own. One day, miraculously a baby washes up ashore in a boat, while the man in the boat who is her father, is dead. Isabelle takes this as a sign from God, and begs her husband to keep the child, and he reluctantly agrees. The rest of the book is full of moral ambiguity and ethical dilemmas!
Writing Style –
The very last page of this book indicates that this is M.L. Stedman’s first novel. I almost couldn’t believe it, it was so well written, you would never guess that this would be the first novel she has published. The book was rich with metaphor and description. I felt like she really establishes the setting extremely well. She appeals to all of your senses through her writing, and subsequently this makes the reader more attached and invested to the plot and to the characters. Some people have criticized the novel for moving a little bit too slowly, which admittedly it did in comparison to some of the other books I’ve been reading lately, but I don’t believe that took away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
The Plot –
This was a very interesting plot that dealt a lot with isolation, loss, pain, and as I mentioned before, ethical dilemmas. I really liked the originality of the plot, personally I have never read a book that follows the life of a lighthouse keeper, this proved to be a unique perspective. I felt like besides its originality it was really well pieced together, by that I mean, by the end of the book, I felt as if the reader gets the whole picture of what has happened. I have to say that throughout the book, I got pretty emotional at some points, I felt angry at some parts, sad, understanding, and happy. So really, the plot of this novel evokes almost every emotion! I also did learn more about Australia and the post World War I period a little bit through this book which I also really enjoyed, and every time there was mention to kangaroos I got a little bit excited because kangaroos are my favourite animals ever, and I would like nothing more than to visit Australia one day! 🙂
The Characters –
I felt like the characters in this were really relatable, flawed human beings. Real people everyday have to make decisions, often based on their emotions, and then they have to live with the consequences of those decisions, especially if they are the wrong ones. The characters in general really demonstrated the reality of pain, and suffering and raw emotion, and flawed decision making.
Overall, I give this novel 4/5 stars for being so emotionally compelling, and showing the reality of human nature and human emotion. I cannot wait to discuss this book further in book club! If you like emotionally charged books that will pull at your heart strings, and probably keep you up at night reading, I recommend The Light Between Oceans. It is in my opinion, a literary masterpiece.
Some of my Favourite Quotes from the Novel:
“You don’t think ahead in years or months: you think about this hour, and maybe the next. Anything else is speculation.”
“That’s how life goes on – protected by the silence that anesthetizes shame.”
“Putting down the burden of the lie has meant giving up the freedom of the dream.”
“…I promised to spend my life with you. I still want to spend my life with you. Izz, I’ve learned the hard way that to have any kind of a future you’ve got to give up hope of ever changing your past.”
“The law’s the law, but people are people.”
Discussion: Do not read on if you haven’t read the book or don’t want to be spoiled
I had so many feelings reading this book! I really could understand everyone’s perspective, Hannah’s – her longing for her biological child after the death of her beloved husband, a miracle that her child is still alive, Isabelle’s – though I don’t agree with her decision to keep the child, I have to try and empathize with her as she hasn’t been able to have children of her own and saw it as a sign from God. But I wanted to mostly focus on Tom. Even at the end of the book, when his wife blames him for everything (when really it was her fault), he still protected her even from jail! He didn’t want her to have to pay the consequences of her actions so he blamed the whole thing on himself! I think he should have told the truth to the police at that point, and explained to them their motives and Isabelle’s history with the loss of her children. The whole time Tom suffered so much, his conscience telling him he had to do the right thing for Hannah, but this conflicted with his love for Isabelle. I feel really bad for Tom and for Lucy-Grace they were the two characters that I just pitied the most, because other people’s hurt and loss and suffering became such a huge impact on their lives.