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“The Light Between Oceans” by M. L. Stedman is a novel set mostly on an isolated island, Janus Rock, off the south coast of Western Australia.
After four years of fighting on the Western Front in WWI, Tom Shelburne returns home to take a job as a lighthouse keeper. Janus Rock is isolated, almost a half-day trip from the coast and Point Partageuse, where Tom met Isabel Graysmark when he first arrived on his way to the lighthouse. They fall in love, marry and together return to Janus Rock to care for the lighthouse and begin their life together.
During the next years, Isabel has two miscarriages and a stillborn birth. She is grieving when an unimaginable event takes place – a boat has washed up onshore carrying a living baby and a dead man. Tom wants to report the man and the infant immediately but gives in to Isabel’s need for a baby. They claim her as their own, against Tom’s better judgment, and name her Lucy. When Lucy turns 2, they return to the mainland for a holiday and encounter the devastating consequences of their act. They discover the background of their daughter, including the fact that her mother, Hannah Roennfelt, is alive and desperately searching for her child in Point Partageuse.
The author examines choices, loyalties and the love between husband and wife, parent and child. This is a story full of strong, visual details and a moral dilemma with no straightforward answer.
This is the first novel by London attorney M.L. Stedman. Its descriptions of the island and the ocean are rich in detail, and the author’s use of the ocean as a metaphor for the characters and their feelings works well.