The Light between Oceans


Author: M.L.Stedman

Publisher: Random House

Category: Historical Fiction

368 pp



The Light between Oceans is M.L. Stedman’s debut novel.

It is 1920, and Tom Sherbourne has been posted as a lighthouse keeper, to Janus Rock – a remote island off the coast of Western Australia. Returning from World War One, Tom is a reserved, almost broken man, but in Point Partegeuse – the closest point of mainland Australia to Janus – he meets the feisty young Isabel Graysmark. They begin to write letters to each other and eventually are married in 1922. Isabel is inquisitive and game for anything:

“Just to be beside her had made him feel cleaner somehow, refreshed. “

Tom on the other hand, has trouble coming to terms with the fact that he survived the war when others didn’t. Isabel brings light and laughter into Tom’s life.

In 1926, a boat appears on the island, carrying a dead man and a baby. Isabel has recently suffered her third miscarriage, and is convinced the arrival of the baby is a sign that she was meant to be a mother after all. She persuades Tom not to report the boat and names the baby Lucy. Isabel blossoms with the baby in her life, but Tom struggles with the decision not to report the boat.

Eventually, things catch up with Tom and Isabel and it is discovered that the baby in fact belongs to Hannah Roennfeldt, who lives in Point Partegeuse. Tom takes all the blame for keeping Lucy. He feels as though he had “been on borrowed time a long while”, as a result of killing men during the war, and believes he deserves whatever cards he is dealt.

At its heart, The Light between Oceans is a story about love, loss, right and wrong. It is a beautifully written, heart-wrenching novel. The devastation Isabel felt in losing her own children helped to justify her decision to keep baby Lucy, and although what Isabel did was wrong, the novel is written so sympathetically that I felt for all the characters at one point or another.

The Light between Oceans was Judy’s choice for our February book club. We had a wonderful discussion about morals and heart-wrenching decisions. Many of us were torn by the moral dilemma posed in the book.

My rating: 8/10

Book club rating: 8.4/10

This is the fifth book I have read for the AWW2013 challenge.


Have you read The Light between Oceans? What did you think about the moral dilemma posed in the novel?