Wednesday, April 20, 2016

545 (2016 #11). The Light Between Oceans

by M. L. Stedman,
read by Noah Taylor

I had a tough time putting this book down.  Author M.L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia, influencing her descriptions of the fictional settings in the story, the Janus Rock lighthouse and the town of Point Partageuse (apparently located near the real town of Augusta and the mainland lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin. In Australia, the Cape is considered the point where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.).

In an interview, Stedman had this to say about her setting:

The theme of duality runs right through the book, and location is a physical manifestation of that duality. It reminds the reader that there’s always more than one way of looking at things: without giving away too much about the plot, there are two aspects to the baby’s story, and two locations – Janus Rock and Point Partageuse. The two oceans have (or perhaps are) very different characters – the Great Southern Ocean is icy, fierce and treacherous, and the Indian Ocean is warm and calm in comparison. This duality is echoed, too, in the island named after Janus, a Roman god who has two faces looking out in opposite directions. He stands for beginnings and transitions, so his image was often found on doorways and thresholds (the state of ‘between’ alluded to in the title). The doors of his temple in the Roman Forum were open in times of war and closed in times of peace: Tom retreats from war to find peace in solitude, but is confronted with conflict on a deeper, more intimate scale.

The book starts on April 27, 1926, when a rowboat washes up on Janus Rock.  Tom Sherbourne, the lighthouse keeper, discovers a dead man inside....and a living baby girl.  His wife Isabel has just had a stillborn child after two miscarriages, and she persuades Tom to keep the baby, against his better judgment.

Part I then gives the backstory.  It flashes back to December 1918, when World War I veteran Tom takes the keeper job at the remote lighthouse that is half a day's boat ride from the mainland.  On his way there, he meets Isabel Graysmark in Point Partageuse.

Part II returns to that fateful day in April 1926, and then what happens after, when Tom and Isabel learn the truth about baby Lucy.  The book ends in August 1950.

This is a fascinating story with a moral dilemma with no clear answers.  Highly recommended!

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[The e-audiobook, as well as an e-book for reference, were borrowed from and returned to public libraries.]

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