Notes from underground

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The light between oceans: book review

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tom Sherbourne, a soldier returned from the First World War, gets a job as a lighthouse keeper, and is posted to a lonely island off the south-western tip of Australia, where a supply ship calls once in three months. This doesn’t sound like the recipe for an interesting or exciting story — perhaps only as exciting as the log book Tom is required to keep, saying what time he lit the lamp in the evening, and what time he extinguished it in the morning. For the most part one day’s entry is much the same as the next, with no unusual occurrences.

On the one day when there is an unusual occurrence, however, Tom fails to record it in the log. That was the day a boat washed up on the shore with a dead man and a live baby. There is no sign of the baby’s mother. Tom’s wife Isabel has just lost a stillborn baby, and sees the new arrival as a substitute. When they return for shore leave everyone knew she had been expecting a baby, and so no questions are asked. But decisions have consequences, sometimes unforeseen consequences, and it is easy to get into a position from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.

I found it a very good book indeed, and well worth reading. Perhaps it was partly as a reaction against the previous book I had read, The girl who disappeared twice by Andrea Kane, where all the main characters were far too perfect, and never, ever made a mistake, I found this one, with its fallible human characters, a much better read. So I found myself always wanting to read more, to find out what happened.

I found the story well put-together, and well told. At one level it is a love story, though not really a starry-eyed romantic one. It is a sad book, and in some what a tear jerker. In some ways it reminded me of The Caucasian chalk circle by Berthold Brecht, which I only ever saw performed as a play over 40 years ago, and now I want at least to read it, to remind myself of what it was about.

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