The Light Between Oceans by M. L Steadman
The film is now out but the book was also incredibly moving as you are caught up in the central struggles between right and wrong, love and duty and the pressure put upon a marriage by extreme events and isolation.
It is set in post WW1 Australia where Tom Sherbourne, shell shocked by the war, gets a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. He marries local girl, Isabel and they live together very happily in their isolation. But gradually their inability to have children cause cracks in their relationship until one day a baby is, seemingly miraculously, delivered to them in a ship-wrecked boat.
As a reader it is difficult not to identify with Isabel’s suffering and her desire for motherhood and the feeling you would have acted as she did in taking in the baby as her own. Tom’s dilemma was equally heart-rending, especially as he clearly adored the baby, Lucy, but his innate sense of morality forces him in the end to do the right thing, in spite of the terrible consequences and the seemingly irreparable damage to his marriage.
All the characters in the book are very human, slightly flawed but trying to do the best they can. Lucy’s grandfather was especially endearing in his attempts to entice her out of her bewildered grief, and even suggesting the compromise name Lucy Grace.
There is a very well-evoked sense of place and so it is easy to picture the small remote town on the edge of the continent and the even more isolated lighthouse island ‘hanging like a button off the edge’. (And yes, at times the overuse of similes was a little annoying)
Symbolism fans should perhaps note the use of the lighthouse as a metaphor for the moral light shining between the two turbulent oceans of love and duty, perhaps epitomised in the tall steadfast figure of Tom.
The strong suspense of not knowing whether Isabel would forgive Tom or not, gripped to the final redemptive ending.
As a fan of the book, and of Michael Fassbinder, I’m looking forward to the film.