Audiobook Review: The Light Between Oceans

lightIf you want to be 100% drawn into a story, then this is the novel for you.

We originally received this audiobook thanks to Audiobook Jukebox and Simon & Schuster Audio last year.  Fellow Hoarder Penny listened and reviewed the tale, giving it a heartfelt 4 stars.  She wrote a beautiful review, which can be found here.  It encapsulated the story perfectly.  I’m just writing a second, somewhat abbreviated review perhaps as a therapeutic measure.  I miss the characters.

Tom Sherbourne, a decorated veteran of WWI, takes a position as a Lighthouse Keeper on Janus Rock back in his native Australia.  He figures that any man with as scarred a past requires isolation, and he looks forward to the time alone.  This might give him the opportunity to sort out his thoughts and his life up until that point.  However, upon a visit to the mainland shortly thereafter, he meets Isabel and is swept away.  They marry and live together happily on Janus Rock.

Their idyllic situation is soon dashed on the rocks as Isabel suffers two miscarriages and a heartbreaking stillbirth.  Their attempts to grow into a family of three look all but lost… until oddly, a dingy is found on their shore one night.  Inside, the couple find a dead man, and baby girl who is very much alive.  Tom, who lives by meticulous means with arduous logs and shining prisms, wants to report the event.  Isabel, however, believing the baby to be a gift from God for the souls they have lost, talks him out of the lawful thing to do.  Reluctantly, Tom eventually buries the poor deceased man, and agrees to keep the baby. Surely, the infant’s parents have been lost at sea. Surely, loving this child as their own is the most logical and kind thing to do.  Surely, no one will ever be the wiser.  They name the child Lucy, and adore her from the start.

But this heaven-on-Janus can’t possibly last.  When the child is two, and smitten with her loving parents, Tom and Isabel discover that Lucy’s mother is alive.  Her name is Hannah, a sweet girl from a very well-to-do family on the mainland.  Since losing her beloved husband and infant girl to the sea (following a harrowing incident with the local townspeople), the poor creature is a mere shade of the person she used to be.  She’s heartbroken, and haunted.  There isn’t a day that passes that she does not ache for her loved ones.  She is also convinced that her daughter is still alive.

The couple face a choice.  The right thing to do is clear to both of them.  For Tom, they must report what they have done, and return the child to her mother.  For Isabel, they must keep Lucy, as they are the only parents the child has actually known.  The back and forth between the two is exhausting.  More often than not, it’s infuriating.  Tom’s stance understands that they have caused irrevocable hurt, and he wants to remedy the situation by returning the child to her grief-stricken mother.  Isabel’s stance revolves around her own personal needs, and the heartbreak she has endured in the past.  Isabel digs in, maintaining that keeping the girl from her biological mother is in the child’s best interest.

This is the part where I must be coy, lest I give away too much.  What I will say is that regardless of which side you take, you will still ache for everyone else.  Tom is a moral gentleman.  Isabel is a heartbroken mother.  Hannah is a heartbroken mother.  In a situation where right and wrong can be blurred, it becomes very difficult to see.  I, for one, took no prisoners when I chose my side, and grew increasingly furious with one of the characters.  One more than one occasion, I texted Penny for comfort, pleading with her to tell me if my hunches were on the right track.  Penny wouldn’t divulge a thing. I had to listen for myself.  I’m so happy that I did.

For a magnificently written story, The Light Between Oceans is a must read.  You’ll languish when there’s heartache, and will smile when there’s compassion.  The plot is creative and the dilemma is painful.  Your emotions will be swept away with the tide.

5 stars for a remarkable journey.

Narration: This audiobook was read by Noah Taylor.  While I will say that his accent was perfect (beautiful, in fact), and his voices for the characters hit every mark, I have to admit that I would often get frustrated with how quiet he would become.  He seemed to whisper a good portion of the book, which would force me to increase the volume.  When he would suddenly return to a regular tone, I would jump out of my skin.  Essentially, I would go from straining to hear to a panicked slap of the volume dial.  Still, Mr. Taylor was effective, and clearly had affection for the characters.  That came through loud and clear.

Audiobook Review: The Light Between Oceans

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!