Book Review

Lately, I’ve been dipping my toes in the ever-flowing river of fictional novels. A few weeks ago, I viewed part of a trailer on Facebook for the upcoming feature film The Light Between Oceans. As my friends and family will tell you, I typically avoid watching trailers for movies I know I want to see. In fact, if I’m in a theater and can’t avoid it, I’ll close my eyes, plug my ears, and whisper “Lalalalalalala” until it’s over. However, since I had never heard of this movie before, the gorgeous scenery captured my attention. I immediately recognized the star of the movie, Michael Fassbender—known for his role as “Magneto” in X-Men (the prequels)—and became intrigued. Instead of finishing the trailer, I decided to search out the book, requesting it from my local library.

Book cover featuring a woman and a man standing forehead to forehead both with their eyes closed

A week later, when my phone rang with the robo-call alerting me to its arrival, I headed down to the library to pick up my diversion: I had no idea I’d be finished reading it in a few short days. I used to be such a slow reader! Well, I guess my reading rate depends on the quality and attention-grabbing-ability of the book itself. I put this book down only when it was absolutely necessary.

WOW!!! This is the first fictional novel that has deeply engaged my emotions. There were tears at least twice—don’t tell anyone, or it will ruin my image. (We INTJs are supposed to be robots with hearts of ice!) My emotional reaction was completely unexpected and totally NOT normal for me! The author captured my attention in the first chapter and held my close attention all the way through to the final end mark, at which point I told my husband, “We HAVE to go see this movie once it comes out!”

To be honest, there were a few predictable events which nearly resulted in my setting the book down permanently, but they were so well-written! I hoped the entire book would not be like that, and it wasn’t. The plot continued to thicken as the characters became more complex. I kept reading.

He Wasn’t Looking for Love

The story begins in a small coastal town in Australia whose citizens lost many a young man to the Great War—some physically, others mentally. Once the characters have been introduced, the scene shifts to a small island off Australia’s coast upon which stands a lighthouse: the sole protector of souls between two oceans.

The lighthouse is in desperate need of a replacement keeper, and Tom Sherbourne (Fassbender) is the perfect choice. Young, healthy, responsible, self-disciplined, trustworthy—Tom is all this and more. He’s a decorated, honorably discharged veteran of World War I. His biggest struggle in life is trying to make sense as to why he was allowed to live, keep his wits about him, retain all body parts and senses while multitudes of other honorable “blokes” lost everything. Tom’s survival—and sanity—appears to require solitude and serenity. It seems that he and the lighthouse were made for each other. Of course, he can’t stay out there alone the entire time, now, can he?

This brings me to my least favorite part of the book: the silly, sappy, somewhat predictable early romance which began very early in the novel. If you’re perceptive, you’ll know what’s coming by the end of chapter two. But this budding romance is key to the plot and his character development. It moves pretty quickly, so I’m hoping the movie version will be better than that of the book. In this case, I’m hoping a picture is worth a thousand words.

The Light between Oceans

Once the necessary coupling has been completed, the author moves the plot right along with excellent character development, stunning scenic descriptions, and plot twists aplenty. The main characters are developed so fully, you’ll feel like you know them inside and out. You will share in their joys, mourn their losses, and question what you would do as they question their own decisions when their world turns topsy-turvy and nothing is as it once was, nor will it ever be again.

The novel is extremely well-written with beautiful, descriptive language about lighthouses (parts and service included), the solitary life of lighthouse keepers, Australian geography and native animals, as well as historically accurate sociological insights into postwar trauma and bigotry. (I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed the book so much, because it reminded me of topics I taught in an eighth grade world history class years ago.)

If you like history, romance, and mystery, you’ll enjoy reading The Light between Oceans by M.L. Steadman. Should you read it, please comment with your thoughts and impressions.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”