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The Light Between Oceans: A Novel

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel

Автором M.L. Stedman

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The Light Between Oceans: A Novel

Автором M.L. Stedman

оценки:
4.5/5 (765 оценки)
Длина:
409 pages
6 hours
Издатель:
Издано:
Jul 31, 2012
ISBN:
9781451681765
Формат:

Примечание редактора

A mother’s love…

Moral codes, maternal instincts, and a young couple’s marriage are put to the test when a boat carrying a dead man, and a very alive baby girl, washes onto the shore of a remote Australian island.

Описание

From Scribd: About the Book

The Light Between Oceans is the story about Tom Sherbourne, who after returning from four haunting years on the Western Front, becomes employed as a lighthouse keeper on an island called Janus Rock. This desolate, isolated island is a half-a-day's trip from the shore where supply boats only come once a season. Tom brings his loving wife, Isabel, with him where they decide to start a family there. However, after two tragic miscarriages and a stillbirth, the grieving couple begins to lose all hope of ever being able to raise a family. After taking a brief stroll along the island, Isabel hears the cry of a baby on a windy evening. Upon investigating, Isabel found that a boat has washed up onshore, along with a dead man and a baby who is very much alive.

Tom, who struggles with his past and the horrors of war, wants to turn the baby in immediately. Keeping the baby goes against the staunch moral code that he had clung so hard to during the war, but Isabel insists that the baby is a "gift from God." Against Tom's advice, they claim the infant as their own and name her Lucy. Eventually, Tom, Isabel, and Lucy return to the mainland when she is two years old, and Tom and Isabel must learn to come to terms with the choice they made.
Издатель:
Издано:
Jul 31, 2012
ISBN:
9781451681765
Формат:

Об авторе

M.L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia and now lives in London. The Light Between Oceans is her first novel.


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The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman

More Praise for The Light Between Oceans

A moving tale . . . Prepare to weep.

—Susannah Meadows, The New York Times

Lyrical . . . Stedman’s debut signals a career certain to deliver future treasures.

People

A must-read.

Ladies’ Home Journal

The stunning debut novel you need to know about.

—Oprah’s Book Club 2.0

This fine, suspenseful debut explores desperation, morality, and loss, and considers the damaging ways in which we store our private sorrows, and the consequences of such terrible secrets.

—Carmela Ciuraru, Martha Stewart Whole Living

An unexpected novel, both in the story it tells and the gentleness with which the author, M. L. Stedman, conveys emotional violence . . . the tension escalates in this intense and intimate drama.

—Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News

Stedman is from Australia, and the voice she brings to the novel is lovely. She offers gorgeous descriptions of the land and its natural inhabitants.

—Barbara Ellis, The Denver Post

With incredibly visual prose evocative of the time and place, compelling characters, themes of forgiveness and redemption, and a riveting plot that won’t let you put the book down, this is a great debut novel.

—Judy Crosby, IndieBound

Remarkable . . . Stedman brings this couple and their lives nearly a hundred years ago to life so vividly that it’s as if you’re walking the stairs of the lighthouse with them. . . . You won’t be able to stop reading all the way to the heartbreaking, ultimately satisfying conclusion.

—Jennifer Hiller, San Antonio News-Express

The miraculous arrival of a child in the life of a barren couple delivers profound love but also the seeds of destruction. Moral dilemmas don’t come more exquisite than the one around which Australian novelist Stedman constructs her debut.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Haunting . . . Stedman draws the reader into her emotionally complex story right from the beginning, with lush descriptions of this savage and beautiful landscape, and vivid characters with whom we can readily empathize. Hers is a stunning and memorable debut.

Booklist (starred review)

[Stedman sets] the stage beautifully to allow for a heart-wrenching moral dilemma to play out . . . Most impressive is the subtle yet profound maturation of Isabel and Tom as characters.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A love story that is both persuasive and tender.

—Elizabeth Buchan, The Sunday Times (UK)

Stedman writes with a delicate and imaginative touch. . . . This is a novel that cleverly takes a populist concept and turns it into an accessible and beautifully written piece of literature. It will make you cry, its characters will stay with you for days after you have finished with it.

—Emma Cowing, The Scotsman (UK)

An extraordinary book . . .The tragedy is as inevitable as Hardy at his most doom-laden. And as unforgettable.

—Sue Arnold, The Guardian (UK)

M. L. Stedman proves herself to be an accomplished writer in this, her debut novel. . . . Like a lighthouse, it shines light on dark places, and its emotional resonance will stay with you for days.

—Lauren Turner, Irish Examiner

"The Light Between Oceans stays with you long after you have turned the last page. . . . What makes this wonderful novel stand out from the crowd is the cast of emotionally fragile characters, all of whom inspire tremendous sympathy in the reader. . . . Beautifully written, the novel poses an impossible dilemma and makes us question the judgments of all involved."

—Lianne Kolirin, Daily Express (UK)

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title

Contents

Part One

27th April 1926

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Part Two

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Part Three

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Acknowledgments

In memory of my parents.

map

PART ONE

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27TH APRIL 1926

On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross. A single fat cloud snailed across the late-April sky, which stretched above the island in a mirror of the ocean below. Isabel sprinkled more water and patted down the soil around the rosemary bush she had just planted.

… and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, she whispered.

For just a moment, her mind tricked her into hearing an infant’s cry. She dismissed the illusion, her eye drawn instead by a pod of whales weaving their way up the coast to calve in the warmer waters, emerging now and again with a fluke of their tails like needles through tapestry. She heard the cry again, louder this time on the early-morning breeze. Impossible.

From this side of the island, there was only vastness, all the way to Africa. Here, the Indian Ocean washed into the Great Southern Ocean and together they stretched like an edgeless carpet below the cliffs. On days like this it seemed so solid she had the impression she could walk to Madagascar in a journey of blue upon blue. The other side of the island looked back, fretful, toward the Australian mainland nearly a hundred miles away, not quite belonging to the land, yet not quite free of it, the highest of a string of under-sea mountains that rose from the ocean floor like teeth along a jagged jaw bone, waiting to devour any innocent ships in their final dash for harbor.

As if to make amends, the island—Janus Rock—offered a lighthouse, its beam providing a mantle of safety for thirty miles. Each night the air sang with the steady hum of the lantern as it turned, turned, turned; even-handed, not blaming the rocks, not fearing the waves: there for salvation if wanted.

The crying persisted. The door of the lighthouse clanged in the distance, and Tom’s tall frame appeared on the gallery as he scanned the island with binoculars. Izzy, he yelled, a boat! and pointed to the cove. On the beach—a boat!

He vanished, and re-emerged a moment later at ground level. Looks like there’s someone in it, he shouted. Isabel hurried as best she could to meet him, and he held her arm as they navigated the steep, well-worn path to the little beach.

It’s a boat all right, Tom declared. And—oh cripes! There’s a bloke, but—

The figure was motionless, flopped over the seat, yet the cries still rang out. Tom rushed to the dinghy, and tried to rouse the man before searching the space in the bow from where the sound came. He hoisted out a woolen bundle: a woman’s soft lavender cardigan wrapped around a tiny, screaming infant.

Bloody hell! he exclaimed. Bloody hell, Izzy. It’s—

A baby! Oh my Lord above! Oh Tom! Tom! Here—give it to me!

He handed her the bundle, and tried again to revive the stranger: no pulse. He turned to Isabel, who was examining the diminutive creature. He’s gone, Izz. The baby?

It’s all right, by the looks. No cuts or bruises. It’s so tiny! she said, then, turning to the child as she cuddled it, There, there. You’re safe now, little one. You’re safe, you beautiful thing.

Tom stood still, considering the man’s body, clenching his eyes tight shut and opening them again to check he wasn’t dreaming. The baby had stopped crying and was taking gulps of breath in Isabel’s arms.

Can’t see any marks on the fellow, and he doesn’t look diseased. He can’t have been adrift long… You wouldn’t credit it. He paused. You take the baby up to the house, Izz, and I’ll get something to cover the body.

But, Tom—

It’ll be a hell of a job to get him up the path. Better leave him here until help comes. Don’t want the birds or the flies getting at him though—there’s some canvas up in the shed should do. He spoke calmly enough, but his hands and face felt cold, as old shadows blotted out the bright autumn sunshine.

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Janus Rock was a square mile of green, with enough grass to feed the few sheep and goats and the handful of chickens, and enough topsoil to sustain the rudimentary vegetable patch. The only trees were two towering Norfolk pines planted by the crews from Point Partageuse who had built the light station over thirty years before, in 1889. A cluster of old graves remembered a shipwreck long before that, when the Pride of Birmingham foundered on the greedy rocks in daylight. In such a ship the light itself had later been brought from England, proudly bearing the name Chance Brothers, a guarantee of the most advanced technology of its day—capable of assembly anywhere, no matter how inhospitable or hard to reach.

The currents hauled in all manner of things: flotsam and jetsam swirled as if between twin propellers; bits of wreckage, tea chests, whalebones. Things turned up in their own time, in their own way. The light station sat solidly in the middle of the island, the keeper’s cottage and outbuildings hunkered down beside the lighthouse, cowed from decades of lashing winds.

In the kitchen, Isabel sat at the old table, the baby in her arms wrapped in a downy yellow blanket. Tom scraped his boots slowly on the mat as he entered, and rested a callused hand on her shoulder. I’ve covered the poor soul. How’s the little one?

It’s a girl, said Isabel with a smile. I gave her a bath. She seems healthy enough.

The baby turned to him with wide eyes, drinking in his glance. What on earth must she make of it all? he wondered aloud.

Given her some milk too, haven’t I, sweet thing? Isabel cooed, turning it into a question for the baby. Oh, she’s so, so perfect, Tom, she said, and kissed the child. Lord knows what she’s been through.

Tom took a bottle of brandy from the pine cupboard and poured himself a small measure, downing it in one. He sat beside his wife, watching the light play on her face as she contemplated the treasure in her arms. The baby followed every movement of her eyes, as though Isabel might escape if she did not hold her with her gaze.

Oh, little one, Isabel crooned, poor, poor little one, as the baby nuzzled her face in toward her breast. Tom could hear tears in her voice, and the memory of an invisible presence hung in the air between them.

She likes you, he said. Then, almost to himself, Makes me think of how things might have been. He added quickly, I mean… I didn’t mean… You look like you were born to it, that’s all. He stroked her cheek.

Isabel glanced up at him. I know, love. I know what you mean. I feel the same.

He put his arms around his wife and the child. Isabel could smell the brandy on his breath. She murmured, Oh Tom, thank God we found her in time.

Tom kissed her, then put his lips to the baby’s forehead. The three of them stayed like that for a long moment, until the child began to wriggle, thrusting a fist out from under the blanket.

Well—Tom gave a stretch as he stood up—I’ll go and send a signal, report the dinghy; get them to send a boat for the body. And for Miss Muffet here.

Not yet! Isabel said as she touched the baby’s fingers. I mean, there’s no rush to do it right this minute. The poor man’s not going to get any worse now. And this little chicken’s had quite enough of boats for the moment, I’d say. Leave it a while. Give her a chance to catch her breath.

It’ll take hours for them to get here. She’ll be all right. You’ve already quietened her down, little thing.

Let’s just wait. After all, it can’t make much difference.

It’s all got to go in the log, pet. You know I’ve got to report everything straightaway, Tom said, for his duties included noting every significant event at or near the light station, from passing ships and weather, to problems with the apparatus.

Do it in the morning, eh?

But what if the boat’s from a ship?

It’s a dinghy, not a lifeboat, she said.

Then the baby’s probably got a mother waiting for it somewhere onshore, tearing her hair out. How would you feel if it was yours?

You saw the cardigan. The mother must have fallen out of the boat and drowned.

Sweetheart, we don’t have any idea about the mother. Or about who the man was.

It’s the most likely explanation, isn’t it? Infants don’t just wander off from their parents.

Izzy, anything’s possible. We just don’t know.

When did you ever hear of a tiny baby setting off in a boat without its mother? She held the child a fraction closer.

This is serious. The man’s dead, Izz.

And the baby’s alive. Have a heart, Tom.

Something in her tone struck him, and instead of simply contradicting her, he paused and considered her plea. Perhaps she needed a bit of time with a baby. Perhaps he owed her that. There was a silence, and Isabel turned to him in wordless appeal. I suppose, at a pinch… he conceded, the words coming with great difficulty, I could—leave the signal until the morning. First thing, though. As soon as the light’s out.

Isabel kissed him, and squeezed his arm.

Better get back to the lantern room. I was in the middle of replacing the vapor tube, he said.

As he walked down the path, he heard the sweet notes of Isabel’s voice as she sang, Blow the wind southerly, southerly, southerly, blow the wind south o’er the bonnie blue sea. Though the music was tuneful, it failed to comfort him as he climbed the stairs of the light, fending off a strange uneasiness at the concession he had made.

CHAPTER 1

16th December 1918

Yes, I realize that," Tom Sherbourne said. He was sitting in a spartan room, barely cooler than the sultry day outside. The Sydney summer rain pelted the window, and sent the people on the pavement scurrying for shelter.

"I mean very tough. The man across the desk leaned forward for emphasis. It’s no picnic. Not that Byron Bay’s the worst posting on the Lights, but I want to make sure you know what you’re in for." He tamped down the tobacco with his thumb and lit his pipe. Tom’s letter of application had told the same story as many a fellow’s around that time: born 28 September 1893; war spent in the Army; experience with the International Code and Morse; physically fit and well; honorable discharge. The rules stipulated that preference should be given to ex-servicemen.

It can’t— Tom stopped, and began again. All due respect, Mr. Coughlan, it’s not likely to be tougher than the Western Front.

The man looked again at the details on the discharge papers, then at Tom, searching for something in his eyes, in his face. No, son. You’re probably right on that score. He rattled off some rules: You pay your own passage to every posting. You’re relief, so you don’t get holidays. Permanent staff get a month’s leave at the end of each three-year contract. He took up his fat pen and signed the form in front of him. As he rolled the stamp back and forth across the inkpad he said, Welcome—he thumped it down in three places on the paper—to the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service. On the form, 16th December 1918 glistened in wet ink.

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The six months’ relief posting at Byron Bay, up on the New South Wales coast, with two other keepers and their families, taught Tom the basics of life on the Lights. He followed that with a stint down on Maatsuyker, the wild island south of Tasmania where it rained most days of the year and the chickens blew into the sea during storms.

On the Lights, Tom Sherbourne has plenty of time to think about the war. About the faces, the voices of the blokes who had stood beside him, who saved his life one way or another; the ones whose dying words he heard, and those whose muttered jumbles he couldn’t make out, but who he nodded to anyway.

Tom isn’t one of the men whose legs trailed by a hank of sinews, or whose guts cascaded from their casing like slithering eels. Nor were his lungs turned to glue or his brains to stodge by the gas. But he’s scarred all the same, having to live in the same skin as the man who did the things that needed to be done back then. He carries that other shadow, which is cast inward.

He tries not to dwell on it: he’s seen plenty of men turned worse than useless that way. So he gets on with life around the edges of this thing he’s got no name for. When he dreams about those years, the Tom who is experiencing them, the Tom who is there with blood on his hands, is a boy of eight or so. It’s this small boy who’s up against blokes with guns and bayonets, and he’s worried because his school socks have slipped down and he can’t hitch them up because he’ll have to drop his gun to do it, and he’s barely big enough even to hold that. And he can’t find his mother anywhere.

Then he wakes and he’s in a place where there’s just wind and waves and light, and the intricate machinery that keeps the flame burning and the lantern turning. Always turning, always looking over its shoulder.

If he can only get far enough away—from people, from memory—time will do its job.

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Thousands of miles away on the west coast, Janus Rock was the furthest place on the continent from Tom’s childhood home in Sydney. But Janus Light was the last sign of Australia he had seen as his troopship steamed for Egypt in 1915. The smell of the eucalypts had wafted for miles offshore from Albany, and when the scent faded away he was suddenly sick at the loss of something he didn’t know he could miss. Then, hours later, true and steady, the light, with its five-second flash, came into view—his homeland’s furthest reach—and its memory stayed with him through the years of hell that followed, like a farewell kiss. When, in June 1920, he got news of an urgent vacancy going on Janus, it was as though the light there were calling to him.

Teetering on the edge of the continental shelf, Janus was not a popular posting. Though its Grade One hardship rating meant a slightly higher salary, the old hands said it wasn’t worth the money, which was meager all the same. The keeper Tom replaced on Janus was Trimble Docherty, who had caused a stir by reporting that his wife was signaling to passing ships by stringing up messages in the colored flags of the International Code. This was unsatisfactory to the authorities for two reasons: first, because the Deputy Director of Lighthouses had some years previously forbidden signaling by flags on Janus, as vessels put themselves at risk by sailing close enough to decipher them; and secondly, because the wife in question was recently deceased.

Considerable correspondence on the subject was generated in triplicate between Fremantle and Melbourne, with the Deputy Director in Fremantle putting the case for Docherty and his years of excellent service, to a Head Office concerned strictly with efficiency and cost and obeying the rules. A compromise was reached by which a temporary keeper would be engaged while Docherty was given six months’ medical leave.

We wouldn’t normally send a single man to Janus—it’s pretty remote and a wife and family can be a great practical help, not just a comfort, the District Officer had said to Tom. But seeing it’s only temporary… You’ll leave for Partageuse in two days, he said, and signed him up for six months.

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There wasn’t much to organize. No one to farewell. Two days later, Tom walked up the gangplank of the boat, armed with a kit bag and not much else. The SS Prometheus worked its way along the southern shores of Australia, stopping at various ports on its run between Sydney and Perth. The few cabins reserved for first-class passengers were on the upper deck, toward the bow. In third class, Tom shared a cabin with an elderly sailor. Been making this trip for fifty years—they wouldn’t have the cheek to ask me to pay. Bad luck, you know, the man had said cheerfully, then returned his attention to the large bottle of over-proof rum that kept him occupied. To escape the alcohol fumes, Tom took to walking the deck during the day. Of an evening there’d usually be a card game belowdecks.

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You could still tell at a glance who’d been over there and who’d sat the war out at home. You could smell it on a man. Each tended to keep to his own kind. Being in the bowels of the vessel brought back memories of the troopships that took them first to the Middle East, and later to France. Within moments of arriving on board, they’d deduced, almost by an animal sense, who was an officer, who was lower ranks; where they’d been.

Just like on the troopships, the focus was on finding a bit of sport to liven up the journey. The game settled on was familiar enough: first one to score a souvenir off a first-class passenger was the winner. Not just any souvenir, though. The designated article was a pair of ladies’ drawers. Prize money’s doubled if she’s wearing them at the time.

The ringleader, a man by the name of McGowan, with a mustache, and fingers yellowed from his Woodbines, said he’d been chatting to one of the stewards about the passenger list: the choice was limited. There were ten cabins in all. A lawyer and his wife—best give them a wide berth; some elderly couples, a pair of old spinsters (promising), but best of all, some toff’s daughter traveling on her own.

I reckon we can climb up the side and in through her window, he announced. Who’s with me?

The danger of the enterprise didn’t surprise Tom. He’d heard dozens of such tales since he got back. Men who’d taken to risking their lives on a whim—treating the boom gates at level crossings as a gallop jump; swimming into rips to see if they could get out. So many men who had dodged death over there now seemed addicted to its lure. Still, this lot were free agents now. Probably just full of talk.

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The following night, when the nightmares were worse than usual, Tom decided to escape them by walking the decks. It was two a.m. He was free to wander wherever he wanted at that hour, so he paced methodically, watching the moonlight leave its wake on the water. He climbed to the upper deck, gripping the stair rail to counter the gentle rolling, and stood a moment at the top, taking in the freshness of the breeze and the steadiness of the stars that showered the night.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a glimmer come on in one of the cabins. Even first-class passengers had trouble sleeping sometimes, he mused. Then, some sixth sense awoke in him—that familiar, indefinable instinct for trouble. He moved silently toward the cabin, and looked in through the window.

In the dim light, he saw a woman flat against the wall, pinned there even though the man before her wasn’t touching her. He was an inch away from her face, with a leer Tom had seen too often. He recognized the man from belowdecks, and remembered the prize. Bloody idiots. He tried the door, and it opened.

Leave her alone, he said as he stepped into the cabin. He spoke calmly, but left no room for debate.

The man spun around to see who it was, and grinned when he recognized Tom. Christ! Thought you were a steward! You can give me a hand, I was just—

I said leave her alone! Clear out. Now.

But I haven’t finished. I was just going to make her day. He reeked of drink and stale tobacco.

Tom put a hand on his shoulder, with a grip so hard that the man cried out. He was a good six inches shorter than Tom, but tried to take a swing at him all the same. Tom seized his wrist and twisted it. Name and rank!

McKenzie. Private. 3277. The unrequested serial number followed like a reflex.

Private, you’ll apologize to this young lady and you’ll get back to your bunk and you won’t show your face on deck until we berth, you understand me?

Yes, sir! He turned to the woman. Beg your pardon, Miss. Didn’t mean any harm.

Still terrified, the woman gave the slightest nod.

Now, out! Tom said, and the man, deflated by sudden sobriety, shuffled from the cabin.

You all right? Tom asked the woman.

I—I think so.

Did he hurt you?

He didn’t…—she was saying it to herself as much as to him—he didn’t actually touch me.

He took in the woman’s face—her gray eyes seemed calmer now. Her dark hair was loose, in waves down to her arms, and her fists still gathered her nightgown to her neck. Tom reached for her dressing gown from a hook on the wall and draped it over her shoulders.

Thank you, she said.

Must have got an awful fright. I’m afraid some of us aren’t used to civilized company these days.

She didn’t speak.

You won’t get any more trouble from him. He righted a chair that had been overturned in the encounter. Up to you whether you report him, Miss. I’d say he’s not the full quid now.

Her eyes asked a question.

Being over there changes a man. Right and wrong don’t look so different any more to some. He turned to go, but put his head back through the doorway. You’ve got every right to have him up on charges if you want. But I reckon he’s probably got enough troubles. Like I said—up to you, and he disappeared through the door.

CHAPTER 2

Point Partageuse got its name from French explorers who mapped the cape that jutted from the south-western corner of the Australian continent well before the British dash to colonize the west began in 1826. Since then, settlers had trickled north from Albany and south from the Swan River Colony, laying claim to the virgin forests in the hundreds of miles between. Cathedral-high trees were felled with handsaws to create grazing pasture; scrawny roads were hewn inch by stubborn inch by pale-skinned fellows with teams of shire horses, as this land, which had never before been scarred by man, was excoriated and burned, mapped and measured and meted out to those willing to try their luck in a hemisphere which might bring them desperation, death, or fortune beyond their dreams.

The community of Partageuse had drifted together like so much dust in a breeze, settling in this spot where two oceans met, because there was fresh water and a natural harbor and good soil. Its port was no rival to Albany, but convenient for locals shipping timber or sandalwood or beef. Little businesses had sprung up and clung on like lichen on a rock face, and the town had accumulated a school, a variety of churches with different hymns and architectures, a good few brick and stone houses and a lot more built of weatherboard and tin. It gradually produced various shops, a town hall, even a Dalgety’s stock and station agency. And pubs. Many pubs.

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Throughout its infancy, the unspoken belief in Partageuse was that real things happened elsewhere. News of the outside world trickled in like rain dripped off the trees, a snippet here, a rumor there. The telegraph had speeded things up a bit when the line arrived in 1890, and since then a few folks had got telephones. The town had even sent troops off to the Transvaal in 1899 and lost a handful, but by and large, life in Partageuse was more of a sideshow, in which nothing too evil or too wonderful could ever happen.

Other towns in the West had known things different, of course: Kalgoorlie, for example, hundreds of miles inland, had underground rivers of gold crusted by desert. There, men wandered in with a wheel-barrow and a gold-pan and drove out in a motorcar paid for by a nugget as big as a cat, in a town that only half ironically had streets with names like Croesus. The world wanted what Kalgoorlie had. The offerings of Partageuse, its timber and sandalwood, were small beer: it wasn’t flashy boom-time like Kal.

Then in 1914 things changed. Partageuse found that it too had something the world wanted. Men. Young men. Fit men. Men who had spent their lives swinging an ax or holding a plow and living it hard. Men who were the prime cut to be sacrificed on tactical altars a hemisphere away.

Nineteen fourteen was just flags and new-smelling leather on uniforms. It wasn’t until a year later that life started to feel different—started to feel as if maybe this wasn’t a sideshow after all—when, instead of getting back their precious, strapping husbands and sons, the women began to get telegrams. These bits of paper which could fall from stunned hands and blow about in the knife-sharp wind, which told you that the boy you’d suckled, bathed, scolded and cried over, was—well—wasn’t. Partageuse joined the world late and in a painful labor.

Of course, the losing of children had always been a thing that had to be gone through. There had never been guarantee that conception would lead to a live birth, or that birth would lead to a life of any great length. Nature allowed only the fit and the lucky to share this paradise-in-the-making. Look inside the cover of any family Bible and you’d see the facts. The graveyards, too, told the story of the babies whose voices, because of a snakebite or a fever or a fall

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  • I cried. Seriously, this is a really great book that I just couldn't put down. I recently became engaged to my husband a months ago, and a good friend of mine recommended this book to me. There is so much in here that I can relate to. The struggle that this family to-be goes through is absolutely heartbreaking, but it is also so real. I can picture myself as Isabel and my husband to-be as Tom. The characters are so realistic and they face the real issues that every couple must deal with in real life. This book had me gripped from beginning to end, and I look forward to more of what this author will write in the future. Get your tissues, hug your boyfriend/husband/whoever, and read this fantastic book! Seriously, I can't recommend it enough.

    Scribd Editors
  • This is a pretty decent book. Sure it took a little longer than I'd like before it got into the meat and potatoes, but overall this was really good. And the ending was quite something, very haunting, definitely worthwhile and fitting you. This novel is a morality play for sure. It makes you ask yourself how you would deal with these situations and if or why you would lie or be dishonest. It poses the questions of what you would do to keep a secret or how far you would go to save your marriage. I haven't really read too many books that explore the particular subject matter that the author discusses in this book, but it is without a doubt an interesting read. I'm looking forward to reading more books from her, and for a debut novel, this is truly impressive. This book is definitely a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

    Scribd Editors

Отзывы читателей

  • (4/5)
    Basically this was a very sad book. That said the writing was stellar. The characters were soflawed but immensely well drawn. It just might make it's way onto my top 10 list by the end of theyear!
  • (5/5)
    This was my favorite book of 2013, so far. What an emotional book about the love between the mother and the child and between a wife and husband. The isolation of Janus Rock came across loud and clear. This would make a great movie.
  • (5/5)
    An incredible book that broke my heart and made me cry.The story of a couple who so desperately want a child, that they do the unthinkable by keeping a child that arrives unexpectedly on the shore of their island where they are lighthouse keepers. The wife convinces the husband to keep the child and cover up an accident that has killed the child's natural father.They live a life of bliss together however the father is continually haunted by the crime they have committed. So much so that over the years he leaves hints for the child's natural mother when they visit the mainland. This eventually leads to unbelievable consequences.Beautifully written and heart wrenching.
  • (5/5)
    Amazing writing, gripping story and characters. Its a touching story of love, and family, and life on a remote island and at the same time its this gripping drama just full of heart wrenching tragedy and everyone just being SO MISERABLE, but not in an annoying way. Its more complicated and true to life than that; its about consequences to the choices we make, its about how when you absolutely love someone you put them entirely before yourself. Amazing, enthralling right to the end. A wonderful read.
  • (4/5)
    A tragic, poignant tale of deep pain, deep love and the consequences of both. Stedman creates characters who are oh so human, who make horrid choices and must live with the consequences, yet are good souls at heart. It is an engaging tale with the isolation of the lighthouse keeper's life mimicking the solitude with which one endures guilt, feels sorrow and also experiences love. Very nice debut!
  • (5/5)
    Incredibly powerful book that makes you gage your own interpretations of right and wrong under the circumstances presented by M.L. Steadman.
  • (4/5)
    Beautifully written. Heartbreaking but beautiful. In the 1920's, an isolated lighthouse keeper and his wife on an island off the Australian coast suffer miscarriage after miscarriage. When one day a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a live infant, the wife thinks her prayers have been answered; the husband is uneasy and wants to report it immediately. The wife convinces him that the baby's parents must be dead, they keep the baby and raise her as their daughter. When they discover that the child's birth mother is still alive, the wife rationalizes that they can't possibly tear their daughter, now four, away from the only life she's known. The husband's guilt is overwhelming and he seeks ways to make the situation right. Of course, there is no way to make the situation right, and that is the beauty of this book- the author pursues an issue so heartbreaking that there can be no way to right it. Life is filled with situations where there is no right or wrong, or where there is no way to truly right a wrong that has impacted so many lives, and Stedman has embraced this moral truth and steered it to a conclusion that felt, to me, most acceptable. As I read, I didn't think the conclusion could possibly be tolerable, but it was. This would be a great book for a book group-- lots to discuss-- and it is definitely one that provokes you to ask "what would I do?" Stedman is an amazing storyteller. This book was painful-- it's the first book that has made me tear up in a long time-- but worth it.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent read. FIlled with moral dilemmas.
  • (5/5)
    This book was simply AMAZING! It is not something that I would have ever picked up to read on my own, but I am so glad that I joined the book club and read it! It really had a spell-bounding story that did have a bit of a slow start, but from Chapter 3 on, I found it quite difficult to put it down each night! This author did jump from subject to subject rather quickly sometimes, but I think that kept you interested! You can't help but wonder exactly what you would do if you were in Tom or Izzy's shoes and then later on Hannah's shoes and your heart aches excruciatingly bad for poor little Lucy! Even though the story is based in the 1920's, the writing reflects modern language, which I myself personally really appreciated! I finished this book hours ago and it has left me with lingering thoughts about the story and how it ended! It was so nice to see that Tom and Izzy truly had an ever-lasting love and took their for better or worse, in sickness and in health vows very seriously! I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to add this book to my collection of read books! This is probably by far one of the best books I've ever read!
  • (4/5)
    “He turned his attention to the rotation of the beam, and gave a bitter laugh at the thought that the dip of the light meant that the island itself was always left in darkness. A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.” (Ch 20)In 1918, having spent four excruciating years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as lighthouse keeper on remote Janus Rock. The isolated island, a full half day’s journey from the coast, is the home to which he brings his new wife, Isabel – young, bold, and mysterious. Years later, after their lives have been jarred by two miscarriages and a stillbirth, Isabel hears a baby’s cry on the shore. A boat has washed up, carrying a dead man, a living, crying baby, and a woman’s cardigan. Tom, ever meticulous with his duties as lighthouse keeper, proceeds to report the incident immediately. But Isabel has latched the tiny infant to her breast, and begs Tom to waylay his report. Eventually, against his better judgment, Tom agrees to raise the child with Isabel, and they name her Lucy. Alas, there still exists a world outside of the timelessness that is Janus; and their actions will devastate the life of at least one other.“Hundreds of feet above sea level, he was mesmerized by the drop to the ocean crashing against the cliffs directly below. The water sloshed like white paint, milky-thick, the foam occasionally scraped off long enough to reveal a deep blue undercoat. At the other end of the island, a row of immense boulders created a break against the surf and left the water inside it as calm as a bath. He had the impression he was hanging from the sky, not rising from the earth. Very slowly, he turned a full circle, taking in the nothingness of it all. It seemed his lungs could never be large enough to breathe in this much air, his eyes could never see this much space, nor could he hear the full extent of the rolling, roaring ocean. For the briefest moment, he had no edges.” (Ch 3) The Light Between Oceans is beautifully written. Stedman creates a sense of timelessness, of infinity on Janus that is just lovely. And the irony of the light, capable of illuminating the way for distant others, but powerless to illumine its immediate space, is effective. I did not care for the denouement of the novel – a little too contrived for my taste. That said, it is certainly a worthwhile read, and I highly recommend.“Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled up that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot ’em both, and then it’s too late.” (Ch 20)
  • (4/5)
    A husband and wife live on an island. The husband works as a lighthouse keeper. They experience the loss of three babies and suddenly one day a baby and her dead father appear on the secluded island.

    The story of the choices we make and how they affect the lives of others, this was a beautiful story about the love a parent has for their children and the love spouses have for each other. Set in Australia, I highly recommend reading this before it comes out as a movie!
  • (4/5)
    I took me over a 100 pages to really get into this book, but once I did, it was engrossing. This novel is filled with sympathetic, flawed characters who struggle with the pain that the war and life caused them, trying to find happiness and also do the right thing in a situation where everyone seems to be getting hurt. At different times, the characters all really struggle to do the right thing.

    Some quotes I really liked.

    "History is that which is agreed upon by mutual consent." (p. 155)

    "You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things...We always have a choice. All of us." (p. 323)

    "We've put things right as well as we can. That's all we can do. We have to live with things the way they are now." (p. 333)
  • (3/5)
    I had a hard time deciding between 3 and 4 stars. I disliked one of the main characters so much (Izzy) I didn't feel any empathy so I left it at 3. The book started off almost feeling familiar to me too, like something I had maybe read before but the story was a good one.
  • (4/5)
    Wow! From the get go you sort of figure out that this situation could have a devastating ending. But, it is well written and well worth reading. It will definitely tug at your heartstrings!
  • (4/5)
    It’s not a life for everyone, working in a lighthouse. It’s lonely and secluded. It’s quiet and monotonous. The lighthouse keeper has to keep the light shining for the sailors and boaters who need it.

    After World War I, Tom Sherbourne takes a job as a lighthouse keeper. It is just what he needs after all of the evil he saw on the battlefield. He can be alone with his thoughts without the interference of other people. He relishes the routine of caring for the lighthouse.

    Then he accepts the job at the lighthouse on Janus Rock. Janus Rock is an island off of the coast of Australia. Before taking his post, he meets Isabel Graysmark. Isabel is young and naïve. She’s different from anyone Tom has met before. She is taken with Tom and the two write letters to each other while Tom is at the lighthouse.

    Tom and Isabel get married and move to the lighthouse. The only thing that can make their lives better is to start a family. Each time, though, Isabel loses the baby. After their last baby is stillborn, Isabel is drowning in grief and despair and Tom is at a loss for how to take care of her.

    One morning, a boat washes up on the shore of the island carrying a baby and a dead man. Isabel can’t help but think it’s a sign. Tom, the lighthouse keeper, knows he needs to report the boat and fill out the log. What Tom and Isabel do about the boat and its occupants will have readers questioning themselves about what they would have done and what Tom and Isabel should have done.

    Readers of The Light Between the Ocean by M.L. Stedman are treated to vivid descriptions of life in Australia and working in a lighthouse. The story of Isabel and Tom’s marriage and their lives together will have readers awake very late into the night and missing favorite tv shows in order to learn where their story will end up.
  • (5/5)
    The key event in this book comes at the very beginning. Tom Sherbourne is the keeper of the lighthouse on Janus Rock and is secluded there for months at a time with his wife Isabel. One day, a row boat washes ashore. Inside are a dead man and a baby wrapped in her mother's sweater. Tom, who keeps the lighthouse by the book, begins to follow proper procedures to report the event, but Isabel, who is convinced that the baby's mother must have fallen overboard, insists that he wait at least until morning and sets about taking care of the baby. At this point, on page 9 of the book, I wondered what could possibly sustain the book for another 336 pages. It seemed that Stedman had showed her hand too soon. But, I was wrong. For the remainder of the book, Stedman showed me that a decision is not always as it seems. First, she flashes back eight years and fills in the details that brought Tom and Isabel together and to the lighthouse on Janus Rock. This information is not simply backstory. Tom's experiences in World War I and Isabel's experiences as a young wife place their decisions in a different light. With the context in place, we then see what happens next, as shifting circumstances make them see their decision differently as well. While the first half of the book moved a bit slowly, the second half left me breathless. I was lucky to reach this point in the story on a Saturday morning, and by Saturday night I was turning the final page. This is my real world book club's April book, and I have no doubt that there will be some interesting discussion. Stedman constructed a situation in which right and wrong dissolve quickly into shades of gray. It is seldom easy to find a solution to the problems faced by Tom and Isabel. She also does an excellent job of bringing time and place into the story, as each impacts the decisions that are made. I can't say much more without spoiling the story, so I'll simply say that you should read this one for yourself.
  • (4/5)
    M.L. Stedman's debut effort would have earned 5 stars from me had there not been a couple of pivotal plot developments that felt rushed along, but even those lapses could not diminish the raw emotional power the novel held in store.

    Stedman, and her story, are at their very best when she exercises economy of language, trusting the wholeness of her character development to fully inform the reader's empathy, even when the characters are not deserving of it.

    There was a scene at the end of the book that was so emotionally perfect I could scarcely bear to turn the page. I wish I could say more, but trust that it struck such a true and resonating chord within me that I have written down my thoughts in my personal journal.

    The developing buzz on this one drew me to it -- and I am glad I didn't wait any longer to pick it up.
  • (5/5)
    A truly amazing read! I haven't read a book of this calibre in a long time! Once I started reading, it was hard to put down.
  • (5/5)
    The Light Between Oceans by M.L. StedmanI am weeping having just finished this book, one of the longlisted for the Women's Prize. (still Orange Prize to me)Tom, a Veteran of WWI & guilt ridden that he lived through the war when so many did not, has found that he is unable to cope in the world he has returned to. And so he has put in for a post on lighthouses where he will have solitude to ease his mind and soul. He works several relief 'Lights' before being sent to Janus Rock Lighthouse off Partageuse, Australia. The job requires him to be there 24/7 with supply boats coming out every three months and every three years he will have a leave. "For the first time he took in the scale of the view. Hundreds of feet above sea level, he was mesmerized by the drop to the ocean crashing against the cliffs directly below. The water sloshed like white paint, milky-thick, the foam occasionally scraped off long enough to reveal a deep blue undercoat. At the other end of the island, a row of immense boulders created a break against the surf and left the water inside it as calm as a bath. He had the impression he was hanging from the sky, not rising from the earth. Very slowly, he turned a full circle, taking in the nothingness of it all. It seemed his lungs could never be large enough to breathe in this much air, his eyes could never see this much space, nor could he hear the full extent of the rolling, roaring ocean. For the briefest moment, he had no edges."While in Partageuse before heading out to Janus Rock he meets a young lady and they are taken with each other and write back and forth as the supply boats come and go. Within a short time they decide to marry and Isabel joins him out at the lighthouse. She quickly fell in love with the rocky island and all of it's little inlets and coves. Beginning their family, Tom and Izz were so excited but then to be horribly disappointed when she miscarried the child. The babe was buried up on the high cliff and a rosemary bush was planted at the grave. But they didn't give up and soon Isabel was expecting again. It couldn't happen again but sadly it did. The second babe was buried near the first and another rosemary bush planted.They went on, Tom lighting the lamp at night and shutting it off in the morn and keeping the lighthouse and all of it's workings sparkling clean and shiny. Isabel gardened, kept a few chickens and kept busy with the house. Then they found that she was pregnant again. Happy and yet frightening news for Isabel mourned her babes so & wanted one so very badly. This little boy babe she carried for much longer but in the end he was stillborn. She raged at God and tore at her hair, she mourned so. Again the infant son was buried beside his two siblings and another rosemary bush was planted. They tried to go back to life as they knew it but this time it was so different and so much more difficult.Then one day when Isabel was up on the cliffs she thought she heard a baby crying, but surely not. It must be the wind or sea. But then she saw Tom come running out of the Lighthouse and heard him calling for her: A boat, Isabel, a boat! She ran down to him and he helped her as they climbed down the steep path to the sea where there was a small row boat. They could indeed hear a baby crying and could see a man lying in the boat. Tom checked the man for signs of life but he was quite dead. However tucked under the bow he could see a bit of color and there wrapped in a woman's cardigan was a little baby girl crying and very much alive. Isabel took the baby from Tom and it was love at first sight. Tom needed to report the boat, dead man & baby but Izz begged him to wait until morning. His heart sank but he felt so horribly sad for his wife, having just lost their third child two weeks prior, that he gave in. By the next morning she had convinced him that they should bury the man and keep the baby. Obviously the mother had fallen overboard and drowned beings the baby was wrapper in her sweater.No one would know because the supply boat hadn't been since she had lost this last little one.I found this to be an excellent story. I highly recommend it and I rated it 4 1/2 stars.
  • (4/5)
    Beautiful book. Made me cry. Wasn't given a good review on the Book Show but I loved it.
  • (5/5)
    One of the best books I've read so far this year. It will make my top 10. M. L. Stedman is a wonderful storyteller.
  • (2/5)
    I spent most of this book, with the exception of the beginning, angry with most of the characters. Perhaps this is good writing, but I would like to at least like some of the characters in the novels I read. In this case, however, I disagreed with most of the characters' decisions and how they handled the consequences. For example, Isabel is grief stricken over a recent stillbirth when a live baby is found on Janus Rock and she takes the child as a "gift from God." However, even after she and her husband learn the child's mother is still living and hoping for the child's return, Isabel argues to keep the child because, in her view, it's all part of God's plan. While I can understand Isabel's actions, I still feel they are inexcusable and I struggled to feel any kind of sympathy for her character. The main redeeming quality of this book is that finally, by the end, characters do the right thing.
  • (5/5)
    A wonderful story. A childless couple living on an island off Australia discover a boat washed up with a dead man and an infant. The wife wants to keep the baby (having delivered a stillborn 2 weeks previous) and the husband (the lighthouse keeper) relents and says they'll keep it for the night and he'll notify the authories in the morning. The story is about the choices made, justifying those choices and then living with the consequences of the choices. The story is so well told that the reader feels sympathy for all the characters.
  • (4/5)
    Tom and Isabel have a loving marriage and love their life on an isolated lighthouse island off the west coast of Australia. After three unsuccessful pregnancies, Isabel is bereft, and when a newborn infant washes up on their beach, she is convinced that the baby should be theirs. Of course, life is more complicated than that, and theirs takes a tragic turn when their unofficial adoption is discovered.
  • (4/5)
    Located on Janus Rock, off the coast of Australia, there is a place with neither a future nor a past; it is a lighthouse situated between two oceans; its sole purpose is to provide safety for the maritime world. At this lighthouse, lives the keeper, Tom Sherbourne, a man preferring solitude, mentally scarred by war, and his wife, Isabel (Izzy Bella), a bit younger, who loves to play at life and wants only to share in his, on this remote piece of lonely land. There, one day, they will make a momentous decision that will alter the lives of many.This is such a tender story of devotion and loyalty, of the consequences of decisions once made that cannot be retracted, of mistakes that cannot be erased. Beautifully written, the reader is on the island with the lighthouse, on the rocky shore and the beachfront, climbing up and trudging down the slopes and stairs, experiencing both the magic and desperate moments of Isabel and Tom Sherbourne’s lives. Sadness is often their companion as Isabel cannot hold a child, although she is frequently pregnant. Then, suddenly, one day, they are both startled to hear the sound of a child crying. They discover a small boat has washed up on their shore. Hidden beneath a shawl is an infant, but quite visible, is a man who is no longer present in this world.Just having borne a stillborn child, Izzy is bereft and prevails upon her husband, begging him not to report this discovery too soon, as he is legally bound to do. Her whole demeanor changes with the presence of the child. Think about it, she advises, for the safety of the child. He is swayed by her desperation and relents for a night, and then another and then another. Thus begins a tale of heartbreak with far dreadful consequences.Tormented by what they have done, Tom deliberates his choices to put things right again. Is it even possible? Is there another mother out there pining for her child and her husband or did she drown when they sailed away in the small boat? Would the child’s ultimate fate truly have been an orphanage as Izzy insisted? Did this surprise gift of happiness for one woman, bring destruction and chaos to another’s life? Tom is tormented by these thoughts. What have they done? How can they make it right? Is Tom doing the right thing giving Izzy her way in this, or is he being weak? Is he simply overwhelmingly devoted and blinded by love? Is the mother’s loss of her husband and child as great or greater than their loss of their unborn children? Both of them, Isabel and Tom, have suffered so much loss in their own families. When Lucy is christened, they discover that a monument to an infant and father, who went missing in a boat two years prior, has recently been erected. When, Bluey, one of the more simple-minded men who delivers supplies to the lighthouse where they live, tells his mom that he thinks the missing baby might be living at Janus Light, because of a distinctive rattle he once noticed there, she is filled with greed and marches straight to the police station without thinking of anything but the reward. Each of the people involved had their own secrets, each told their own lies or kept silent, some to protect, some to harm others, but none but one or two aimed to get at the truth and heal the pain. Evil does not often live in the one you most suspect, but rather in the one that quietly plans their mischief. Does doing something wrong, out of love or hate change the painful outcome or even possibly make it legitimate? The writing style is very inviting and the characters are drawn carefully, with great detail, slowly, though, so they fully develop over time. The reader gets to know the two main characters very well and participates in their special story of love and loss. How will this disastrous dilemma end? You will have to read it to find out. This is a heartbreaking tale, worth every page of the read. It will be hard to put it down and harder still to continue to read it. The subject matter will reach into your core and the sharpness of the pain each character feels, will be your own. For a first novel, this has truly succeeded.
  • (4/5)
    What a great read - so emotional. It pulled me right in to so many characters lives. You will find yourself in each characters shoes at one point or another in the book deciding what you would do. Also, I would go back and forth in what I hoped the outcome would be for each character. Absolutely heart wrenching. I read the last few chapters through tears (and in an airport no less !!). Highly recommend.
  • (4/5)
    Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia emotionally scarred after distinguished service in World War I, so the solitary work of a lighthouse keeper on remote Janus Rock is attractive. Unexpectedly, Tom finds a partner on the mainland, Isabel; they marry and hope to start a family. But Isabel suffers miscarriages then loses a premature baby. Two weeks after that last catastrophe, a dinghy washes ashore containing a man's body and a crying infant. Isabel wants to keep the child, which she sees as a gift from God; Tom wants to act correctly and tell the authorities. But Isabel's joy in the baby is so immense and the prospect of giving her up so destructive, that Tom gives way. Years later, on a rare visit to the mainland, the couple learns about Hannah Roennfeldt, who lost her husband and baby at sea. Now guilt eats away at Tom, and when the truth does emerge, he takes the blame, leading to more moral self-examination and a cliffhanging conclusion. Summary BPLThoroughly enjoyed everything about this one: plot, character development and composition! With spare and evocative prose and a tragically flawed marriage at the heart of the novel (the two oceans?), Ms Stedman neatly persuades the reader to accept a somewhat implausible premise. Thence follows a strong story of love, loss, truth and consequences. 8 out of 10. For fans of Australian historical fiction and for anyone who enjoys literary fiction.
  • (5/5)
    Stedman has produced a great debut novel. Tom Sherbourne has returned to Australia after fighting in World War I, and takes the job of lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. Shore leaves are rare, but Tom enjoys the work and the solitude. Eventually he marries Isabel, and they plan on having a family together. After two miscarriages and a stillbirth, a boat washes up on shore. The man in the boat is dead, but Isabel immediately falls in love with the baby, claiming her as her own, and convincing her husband to report neither the death or the baby to the authorities. As the next four years pass, Tom's conscience bothers him more and more; when he learns that the girl's mother is living he tries to make things right. However, with each decision the problems continue to escalate. Stedman's characters are real, and she convincing conveys the problem of finding justice when no matter what is done, someone will be forever hurt. This is a wonderful read and an author to watch.
  • (4/5)
    When a shipwrecked baby washes ashore at a lighthouse, the choice to keep the baby has long-reaching consequences that will affect many people. Beautifully written and intensly emotional, this would provide excellent discussions for book clubs.
  • (4/5)
    The novel is set in the 1920s in western Australia. Tom Sherbourne, a World War I vet, becomes the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a remote, uninhabited island. On one of his shore leaves he meets a young woman named Isabel whom he eventually marries and takes to Janus Rock with him. Their marriage is happy except that Isabel is devastated by two miscarriages and a stillbirth. Just after this last tragedy, a boat washes up on shore with a dead man and an infant. Isabel convinces Tom that they should keep the baby girl and pass it off as their own. This is the story of the consequences of that decision which becomes more difficult to undo as time passes. The book examines the impact of isolation on morality. “The isolation spins its mysterious cocoon, focusing the mind on one place, one time, one rhythm – the turning of the light. The island knows no other human voices, no other footprints. On the Offshore Lights you can live any story you want to tell yourself, and no one will say you’re wrong: not the seagulls, not the prisms, not the wind.” Tom and Isabel live the story they tell themselves since “History is that which is agreed upon by mutual consent” and “everyone knows that sometimes the contract to forget is as important as any promise to remember.” Everything changes of course when they see the impact of their actions on others. Tom “begins to wonder how he could have inflicted such suffering. He begins to wonder what the bloody hell he’s done. ” Once he sees the consequences of their actions, Tom becomes like Janus, the god after whom the island was named: “Always looking both ways, torn between two ways of seeing things.”Another major theme is that of love, in particular the love of a parent for a child and the love between a husband and wife, and what people are capable of doing in the name of love. Sometimes love blinds people to the truth. At one point Tom ponders love: “He struggles to make sense of it – all this love, so bent out of shape, refracted, like light through the lens.” The light of the lighthouse guides mariners to safety by showing them the right way to take; the problem is that Tom does not have a light to guide him because “A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.”A major strong point of this book is that the author manages to make everyone’s motives understandable to the reader. We come to understand why Isabel thinks “God has sent us an angel” and why Tom agrees to the deception despite his misgivings but then has difficulty living with his decision. Both Tom and Isabel’s family backgrounds are given and they too help explain the reasons for their actions throughout the book. The viewpoint of minor characters is occasionally given so even their behaviour is made plausible.No easy answers are given, and that is another reason I recommend the book. The lens in the lighthouse is “all light and clarity.” Unfortunately, life is not, and this book gives us pause to contemplate its dark corners.