Tag Archives: historical fiction

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.

Two 2014 Favorites

I’m sneaking one last review on here before 2015 begins. I realized last night that I had yet to review two of my favorite books that I read this year (quite possibly my top two favorite books).

All the Light We Cannot See

Cover of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrAuthor: Anthony Doerr
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 531 pages

Towards the end of World War II, the seaside city of Saint-Malo, France is bombed by the Allies. Werner, a young German soldier with a innate understanding of electronics is trapped underneath the rubble with a radio. Across the city, a blind girl, Marie Laure, finds herself alone in her uncle’s home, hiding from a Nazi treasure hunter obsessed with a precious jewel in her possession, with a radio transmitter and her braille copy of Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

There are so many beautiful details in this book, particularly surrounding the story of Marie Laure and her father. Her father, the master of locks at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, builts miniature replicas of their neighborhood to help Marie Laure learn how to navigate on her own. Werner’s life is more difficult, but he remains inspired by a strange radio broadcast he heard with his sister as a child.

Besides the details, the writing is very beautiful. The prose can be a bit dense at times, however Doerr counters this with very short chapters with give the book some breathing room. I really wish I would have had time to read this one more slowly. Since I was reading it for class I had to clip through it at a very fast pace. I’m planning on a reread once it’s published in paperback (June 2016).

Station Eleven

cover of Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelAuthor: Emily St. John Mandel
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Literary Fiction/Science Fiction (very light)
Length: 333 pages

I’m going to use a word here to describe Station Eleven, but I don’t want you to let it turn you off the book. Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic (but not dystopian) novel set in the near future after the Georgian Flu wipes out most of the Earth’s population as well as crippling most technologies. Small communities have formed, often near wherever a group of people happened to be at the time the flu hit.

However, this isn’t a particularly science fiction-y book. The story is not centered on survival or plot or what happens next. Rather, the story moves back and forth in time (pre- and post-flu) weaving together multiple characters, but focused on the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who travel across North America performing, because “survival is insufficient.” Station Eleven examines art, humanity, memory, and those things that may survive us: the smart phone in the Museum of Civilization, an obscure sci-fi graphic novel, a Star Trek quote, Shakespeare’s plays.

The title of the book comes from the title of a graphic novel one of the characters creates over many years about a failing, partially flooded space station now consisting of interconnected islands led by Dr. Eleven and the group of people hiding in the Undersea who only want to return to a ruined, alien-dominated Earth. I wanted this graphic novel to be real. I really wanted this graphic novel to be real. Sadly, it is not, although the cover designer, Nathan Burton, did illustrate a few pages.

And like All the Light We Cannot See, the writing in Station Eleven was absolutely beautiful to read.