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The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

I’m so excited to be in a new book club (found through GoodReads) in Santa Barbara because, not only does it provide me with a great book to read and discuss each month – it also provides me with a ton of “rejects”!  The way our book club works is each month, several members bring a book that looks good to them to suggest for the next month.  Everyone votes, and we decide on one that we’ll all read – generally leaving 5 or 6 fantastic looking books behind.  I, of course, always write down the names of the “rejects” because seriously, who wants to read only one book a month?  It is sometimes a sad reality of being an adult, but if I can help it, one book enough is just not enough.  My latest read, The Light Between Oceans was a book club reject.

My review of The Light Between Oceans is mixed.  Truthfully, I probably won’t read it again.  But there were some aspects of the novel that I really liked; in particular, the setting and time period.  The book is set mostly on a remote island in Australia shortly after WWI.  The story follows a couple who marry and take up residence on the island so that Tom, the husband, can work at the lighthouse – forcing both of them to live in seclusion on the tiny island.  They desperately want a family, and after several miscarriages, Isabel, the wife, is reaching her breaking point.  It is at this point that a small boat washes up on shore – and in it are a dead man and an unidentified, healthy, baby.  Taking it as a sign, they bury the dead man and keep the baby – though Tom has some reservations, as it breaks the rules of keeping everything orderly and documented.  Before long, cracks in their happy life begin to appear as growing unease and new information about the baby’s story is unearthed.  All’s well that ends well (in a way) but man, is it a sad read to get there.

The things I liked about this book were that first, it made me want to visit Australia.  Immediately.  I’m not one for long plane rides, but I think the descriptions of the setting in this book have convinced me once and for all that it’s a place I’m going to need to experience for myself.  And as a die-hard Downton Abbey fan, I really enjoyed reading something from the same time period, but in a totally different lifestyle and area of the world.  However, many of the characters, and even the plot itself, often seemed forced, clicheed, and just a bit cheesy.  There were times that the suffering was dragged out to the point of no longer being literary, or beautiful, but became just annoying.  Finally, (and maybe this is the English teacher in me) the tense switching had me frustrated beyond belief!  Fortunately, the tense switched at areas of transition in the book, so it wasn’t a thoughtless move but it was one that didn’t quite work for me.

I give this book 2 stars.  I know some people who enjoyed it, so it may be worth a try for some, but for me, it just wasn’t enough to keep me engaged and involved.  Unlike my favorite books that I can’t get enough of, this one was just a little too easy to put down at the end of a chapter.  ★★

-Becca

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