Heartbreak at Sea

light between oceans

Author: M.L. Stedman
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 343 pages

This is the story of Tom, who after returning to Australia after fighting in World War I feels adrift. Luckily he’s able to find his new calling as a lighthouse keeper and is stationed on Janus Rock, one of the most remote stations off the coast. While on shore leave he meets Isabel who after only seeing each other a few times (he’s only on the mainland for a few days every 6 months) get married and she joins him on the Island. What begins as an adventure between two people in love becomes lonely and isolating as Isabel suffers repeated miscarriages. They finally have a chance at happiness again when a dinghy washes up on shore with a crying child. Not until years later do Tom and Isabel realize that their decision to adopt the baby as their own has had devastating consequences for another family.

The Light Between Oceans had been on my radar since it was published a few years ago. It was on bestseller lists seemingly forever, it won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction, and many of my library internet friends had read and enjoyed it. What finally convinced me to pick it up was the trailer for the upcoming movie adaption, which I hadn’t even realized was happening. Go ahead and watch it, I’ll wait.

Are you near tears? I was, so of course I decided I needed to read the book as soon as possible. Although the plot was somewhat predictable once I knew what was going on, the book was amazing due to it’s well constructed characters. Tom, Isabel and the rest of the cast are all good people at heart* who make terrible decisions and then have to live with them. The complexities of the moral dilemma these characters find themselves in was portrayed extremely well. In another author’s hands, there easily could have been villains, but in this case the motivations for each character are clear and you have sympathy for each and every person.

*Ok, Isabel is crazy-pants, but I’m blaming that on postpartum depression.

This was Stedman’s first novel and definitely isn’t perfect, but overall it was a wonderful read and now I can’t wait to watch the movie.

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