Thank you to Audiobook Jukebox and Simon & Schuster Audio for sending the audio book, The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. This was reviewed for the Solid Gold Reviewer’s Program at Audio Jukebox. (9 CDs for 10.5 hours.)
You can watch a trailer here describing this lovely debut novel.
Thomas Sherbourne has returned to Australia following his time served in WWI. He considers himself one of the very lucky ones, as he’s returning physically unscathed. The war medals he’s won mean nothing to him after knowing the state of many friend and fellow soldier. Mentally… well no one came out of that war of complete sound mind anyway, did they? In order to settle his mind some he agrees to the job as lighthouse keeper on Janus. Janus is quite isolated and Tom enjoys his time alone, studying the stars, quieting his mind.
The responsibilities and duties of a lighthouse keeper stipulate honour above all and the strict keeping of records with critical detail, no lies, no misrepresentation. Failure to follow the keeper code results in immediate termination. These are the duties and responsibilities that Tom abides by and takes very seriously. Every few months, Tom is collected so he may return to the mainland and here meets the flirty and forthcoming Isabelle. He can hardly believe his luck when Isabelle returns to Janus with him as his wife. Their life on Janus is a simple yet very happy one. However, it begins to turn to a burden for Isabelle following two miscarriages and one stillborn birth. It has only been just a few weeks since Isabelle and Tom buried their little boy when a small boat washes up. Inside, a dead man and a very small infant girl. Isabelle is astounded at the find, could her prayers really have been answered? Has this beautiful and perfect little girl been sent to save her? Since it’s only been a few short weeks, the baby quickly takes to Isabelle’s breast. Tom is incredibly torn at his duty and the request from his wife to keep this child as their own, and makes and agrees to the decision going against everything Tom has honoured in his job as lighthouse keeper, to accept and keep this miracle as their own. No one will be the wiser, right? After all, who on earth would allow a man to make off with an infant? This mysterious man has died, surely the same fate has met the mother? They decide to name the baby Lucy and the light, shine and vibrancy has returned to Isabelle, surely they made the right decision in not reporting this to anyone.
Alas, this baby girl was a miracle and an answer to another woman’s prayer as well. Upon return to the mainland for Lucy’s christening, nearly two years following the discovery, the Sherbourne’s learn a terrible truth about Lucy. A woman is known to haunt the shores anxiously looking for clues to the whereabouts of her husband and infant child. Her husband left in a moment of anger and took baby Grace with him, out to sea. For you see, Hannah had married a man that her wealthy father disagreed with, disowned her and it was only following this child’s birth where family relations were repaired. It was a terrible misunderstanding that led Hannah’s husband to flee and take Grace, only around 2 months old at the time with him. Again, this child had performed a miracle, such a special child she was.
Tom becomes increasingly ill at ease with their decision as the years continue to go by, knowing the state Hannah, the girl’s real mother, is in. He feels he must set the situation straight, even if it means losing everything that has become so important to him. Releasing small clues to Hannah results in disasterous consequences for himself, Isabelle and dear little Lucy.
So dear reader, which woman is now to be forced to make an ultimate sacrifice? Should the woman that carried and gave birth to her daughter be allowed to have Grace as hers once again? But what of the woman that has raised and loved Lucy over the past four years, should she be able to continue to call her daughter? This is something I will not spoil for you must certainly pick this one up to discover on your own. Here is another stellar debut novel that shouldn’t be missed!
The Light Between Oceans is narrated by Noah Taylor (perhaps recognized from role in Shine. Remember that great movie? He played David Helfgott as an adolescent). Noah is Australian and therefore leant great authenticity to the story and dialogue between characters. However, I’m giving his narration only 3 stars as I found it somewhat annoying to find he spoke with a lisp and when it came to the descriptive, non-dialogue sections of the story he would quiet his voice and mutter. The mumbling made it at times difficult to fully understand what he was saying! Other than these two factors, he did do a wonderful job with the dialogue and gave everyone genuine and different accents. However, I do have to say I think I may have enjoyed listening to it (despite the faults) over reading the paper version? The authenticity of the Australian accents made it worthwhile as it set a great, great tone to this very interesting story. 4 stars for the tale, 3 stars for the narration!