A Woman stole your heart when you didn’t know it could mend,
Her heart is now broken and you can fix it if you never tell a soul as well as saving a child.
Set just after WW1, war hero Tom Sherborne wants a quiet life after what he has seen. With a heavy heart it is just short of a miracle when he finds not only a perfect job on the isolated island of Janus, but also a young and fiery Isabel. After exchanging letters Tom and Isabel marry as he takes her back to Janus to join him in the lighthouse and start their own paradise on the island. When a boat arrives on the island holding a dead man and a tiny infant the couple don’t know what to do. While Tom is adamant he must stick to the keepers code Isabel , heart broken by the death of her stillborn son and two miscarriages and sure the child is an orphan, takes in the little girl and as she takes her to her breast Tom knows he cannot send the child away. The couple begin to realize however that Janus isn’t the only place in the world and while their paradise is a world away they cannot hide forever.
This novel absolutely warmed and shattered my heart all at once. I honestly can not remember a book that has touched me in this way before, even my favorite The Storyteller didn’t make my heart ache this much. I knew nothing of this book before I found it in my local Tesco’s and I was hesitant to pick it up, but I am so glad I did. The blurb warns you that it will break your heart but I was skeptical, I am yet to read a review which hasn’t brought the reader to tears by the end. I’ve read reviews beforehand saying that they couldn’t stand Isabel and I could see why some would but I just couldn’t. I don’t know if it is because I’m a woman, because I have maternal instincts but I understood Isabel. I understood why she did what she did and how much losing her children broke her and changed her in a way because think about it, wouldn’t it change you? I can also understand Tom’s dilemma and the decision he makes and maybe it’s not the right one but in his shoes I doubt anyone knows what they would really do. In a way it is a what would you do story but you don’t realize it until afterwards.
The novel has a very real sense of the implications of war and the fragile nature of human life without being a historical novel. Although we never hear about Tom’s time as a serving soldier to graphically you don’t need to because it is not the dead who will shatter you heart it is the living who are left behind. On land there is an eerie sense of the hardships of war, of the men who came home but never really came back at all, the mothers and widowers who refuse to believe their boys are really dead. Stedman also bravely touches on another subject, racism after a war, when an innocent life is lost because of the decisions of the few. As a young Austrian man loses his life it is swept under the carpet that his murder was in a towns rage. In my opinion this was incredibly important because we rarely see this side written about and also because it shows the hurt of a whole community and also the sacrifice of Australia in WW1.
One of the main reasons I loved it though was because I wasn’t in a rush. This wasn’t a thriller but it made you want to read on at your own pace. After saying this however this does not mean that I couldn’t put it down and even though I peeked later on at one point I soon forgot what I had read because you get so absorbed in the novel. The imagery of the surroundings is beautiful and I could hear the characters inside my head. The way I can decide if it is a novel worth passing on is if the characters live on in my head, if they become alive and Stedman has certainly done this. I think about living in a light house, about Tom and Izzy’s life and I dream about Australia, so on that basis I think I can give you a five star rating!
The Light Between Oceans – M. L Stedman (debut novel)
***** – It may have broken my heart but I love this novel to pieces already!
Published by Black Swan