The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
A Novel

84%

62 Critic Reviews

Stedman grounds what could be a far-fetched premise, setting the stage beautifully...Most impressive is the subtle yet profound maturation of Isabel and Tom as characters.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

The years-long New York Times bestseller and Goodreads Best Historical Novel that is “irresistible…seductive…with a high concept plot that keeps you riveted from the first page” (O, The Oprah Magazine)—soon to be a major motion picture from Spielberg’s Dreamworks starring Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz, and Alicia Vikander, and directed by Derek Cianfrance.

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

“Elegantly rendered…heart-wrenching…beautifully drawn” (USA TODAY), The Light Between Oceans is a gorgeous debut novel, not soon to be forgotten.

 

About M. L. Stedman

See more books from this Author
M.L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia and now lives in London. The Light Between Oceans is her first novel.
 
Published July 31, 2012 by Scribner. 417 pages
Genres: History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Other, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, Education & Reference. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Sep 11 2016
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Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for The Light Between Oceans
All: 62 | Positive: 60 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jul 01 2012

...guilt eats away at Tom, and when the truth does emerge, he takes the blame, leading to more moral self-examination and a cliffhanging conclusion. A polished, cleverly constructed and very precisely calculated first novel.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jun 04 2012

Stedman grounds what could be a far-fetched premise, setting the stage beautifully...Most impressive is the subtle yet profound maturation of Isabel and Tom as characters.

Read Full Review of The Light Between Oceans: A N... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Susannah Meadows on Jul 25 2012

Ms. Stedman builds a solid case for all sides — or, at least, makes everyone’s motives understandable.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Jun 04 2012

Stedman grounds what could be a far-fetched premise, setting the stage beautifully to allow for a heart-wrenching moral dilemma to play out

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Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on Aug 02 2012

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is a rare melding of lyrical prose and a truly gripping read, the kind that leads one to stay up all night in order to finish the book.

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Booklist Online

Excellent
Reviewed by Deborah Donovan on Sep 29 2016

Stedman draws the reader into her emotionally complex story right from the beginning, with lush descriptions of this savage and beautiful landscape, and vivid characters with whom we can readily empathize. Hers is a stunning and memorable debut.

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USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Elysa Gardner on Aug 12 2012

By letting neither her readers nor her characters off the hook easily, Stedman creates a bond that makes her book tough to shake off.

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USA Today

Good
Reviewed by Elysa Gardner on Aug 12 2012

...to the author's credit, Light's resolution is neither sensationalistic nor overly tidy. Everyone in this book has to make tough choices, including the little girl. By letting neither her readers nor her characters off the hook easily, Stedman creates a bond that makes her book tough to shake off.

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Denver Post

Above average
Reviewed by BARBARA ELLIS on Aug 23 2012

“Light” is a story you want to finish, despite some predictability problems. I cared about Tom and Isabel, and cheered for them even as they betrayed each other. And I was charmed by the supporting cast of characters (Bluey and Ralph in particular).

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The Sydney Morning Herald

Excellent
Reviewed by Patricia Maunder on Apr 15 2012

The author's greatest achievement, however, is the validation given to their disparate views, despite the fact they are largely determined by personal interest. Moral ambiguity is rarely so compelling.

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The Sydney Morning Herald

Above average
Reviewed by Jennifer Moran on Apr 07 2012

At times she bogs down in the dialogue. Her shifting of tenses is not always seamless. I don't think this will bother the readers of that popular magazine whose sticker will generate sales or the millions of book-group readers who will find much to discuss about choices and consequences.

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Historical Novel Society

Excellent
on Sep 29 2016

Among it all is solid, dependable Tom, torn between his conscience and love for his wife. Between the deeply layered characters and the haunting loneliness of wave-swept Janus Rock, Stedman has created an authentic, heartbreaking story that I was unable to put down. A beautiful and highly recommended debut.

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The New Yorker

Above average
Reviewed by Amelia Lester on Sep 03 2012

Told with the authoritative simplicity of a fable, this début novel by an Australian lawyer living in London considers the question of what the right thing to do is when the pursuit of one’s own happiness becomes a zero-sum game.

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'Bout Books

Good
Reviewed by Louise on Aug 01 2013

This emotional novel transports you to a distant place and time. Readers will have a hard time not becoming entranced by the characters.

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City View

Good
Reviewed by Shirley Shiffler on Apr 01 2014

The story lays bare an unimaginable situation where a basically good person makes a bad choice, leading to other good people making bad choices, and how quickly a number of lives can be ruined. A happy ending is seemingly impossible, but the outcome of the story is the best I could have expected.

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Bundaberg Regional Libraries

Good
Reviewed by Sue on May 10 2012

I don’t want to give too much more away – suffice to say I loved this story, and it will be one my top recommendations this year. I defy anyone to read this book and not be touched by the skill of the storyteller and the story itself.

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More Than Just Books

Good
Reviewed by Debbie on Sep 04 2013

It is truly a story about family and redemption and living with choices we have made from desperation. The characters come to life as we follow them through their tribulations.

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Fancy Goods

Good
Reviewed by Jessica Broadbent on Apr 02 2012

The shifts in perspective and the growing cast of characters require the reader pays attention, but it is impossible not to. This is a romantic and a tragic book which grapples with themes such as vengeance and forgiveness, and will have crossover appeal for literary and general fiction readers.

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Booking Mama

Good
Reviewed by Julie P. on Oct 10 2012

...I highly recommend THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS. It is a beautifully written and very complex novel that is not to be missed!

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Lesa's Book Critiques

Good
Reviewed by Lesa on Apr 17 2014

If, like me, you haven't picked up The Light Between Oceans, you might want to consider this thoughtful, quiet novel. It's a powerful story of lost people suffering terrible pain.

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All the Books I Can Read

Good
on Jul 20 2013

This is a beautifully written book where you peel back so many layers and find more lurking underneath for you to examine. Tom and Isabel were both so real, so well constructed.

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Novelicious

Good
Reviewed by Cesca Martin on May 03 2012

Tom Sherbourne was a rounded character with a good heart and the book is all the more harrowing because of this.

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Book Journey

Good
Reviewed by Sheila on May 15 2013

Filled with moral, legal, painful, heart impacted decisions – The Light Between Oceans makes for a great book to discuss with friends and still rethink it on your own.

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Literate Housewife

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer on Jul 30 2012

Tom’s deep need for redemption is particularly heartbreaking. This story is told so well. It will grab hold of you and make you think about what is important in life. This novel is sure to be among my favorite books this fall. I highly recommend The Light Between Oceans.

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Leeswammes' Blog

Good
Reviewed by Leeswammes on Aug 22 2012

A slightly disappointed read for me, but still interesting enough to recommend. People that loved The Lifeboat (Charlotte Rogan) are especially likely to enjoy this book, too.

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Lit and Life

Good
Reviewed by Lisa on Nov 12 2013

There are no easy answers in The Light Between Oceans but much to think about. And readers will continue to think about this one long after they've finished reading it.

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Lit and Life

Good
Reviewed by Lisa on Oct 10 2012

It is probably obvious that I loved this book and am eager for Stedman to write another. It would make a wonderful book club book as there is so much material for a very deep discussion.

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She Reads Novels

Good
on Oct 07 2016

Will trying to make amends actually make things better or worse? And most importantly, what will be best for Lucy herself? These questions are difficult to answer but they are what made this book such an interesting and thought-provoking read.

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Bermuda Onion's Weblog

Above average
on Jul 09 2013

In case you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed The Light Between Oceans. I found it to be compelling and heartbreaking even though it did drag for me in a few places.

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Pretty Books

Good
on Jul 04 2013

The Light Between Oceans mixes lyrical prose, a beautiful ocean setting surrounding a symbolic lighthouse and the star contained within, and a story about people, to create a breathtaking novel. It tells of Australia, of war, of prejudice and of the unlucky. It will make you wonder, ‘What would I have done?’.

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Annette's Book Spot

Excellent
Reviewed by Annette on Jan 28 2013

The resolution is as hopeful as it can be, and the ending brought lots of tears to my eyes (and I don't cry easily.) The journey to that resolution is filled with twists and turns, and Stedman does a great job of keeping you guessing at the outcome.

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Book'd Out

Good
Reviewed by Shelleyrae on Apr 16 2012

The Light Between Oceans is a stunning novel, evocative and lyrical. Rich with emotion, extraordinary characters and story, this is a wonderful read, I happily recommend.

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BookNAround

Above average
Reviewed by Kristen on Apr 11 2014

A tragic, harrowing tale of family, sorrow, deep and abiding love, and what we are willing to do and to compromise in order to keep our loved ones happy, this novel is a promising debut.

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You've GOTTA Read This

Good
Reviewed by Sandy Nawrot on Feb 22 2013

So this is one of those times when it paid to stick it out. If I'd have quit at 50 or 75 pages, I'd have missed out on a great read.

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Book Rap

Good
on Sep 29 2016

Whenever you encounter a book that holds your attention as this one did and stimulates interesting thoughts, it certainly is a book that deserves recommending to others

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Take Me Away

Good
Reviewed by Jenny on Jul 29 2012

There was a definite "King Solomon" morality thing going on throughout this book. It's not an easy answer for anyone but that and these characters make The Light Between Oceans a beguiling read!

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ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Good
Reviewed by Lisa Hill on Apr 01 2012

Stedman teases out the moral ambiguities with skill, shifting the perspective from one character to another as the novel progresses. My guess is that book groups will argue long and hard about the rights of birth mothers and adoption…

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Caribous Mom

Good
Reviewed by Wendy on Oct 07 2012

The Light Between Oceans is beautifully wrought, but not without its flaws. Some plot points felt a bit implausible or contrived, and the novel begins slowly.

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Blogging for a Good Book

Good
Reviewed by Jan on Jul 09 2013

The Light Between Oceans is a haunting and wrenching story filled with a pervasive sense of loss. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to happen as all the possible outcomes seemed to be flawed and tragic. Despite this, it is a moving portrait of family bonds...

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Musings of a Literary Dilettante's Blog

Good
Reviewed by musingsofaliterarydilettante on Feb 03 2013

The Light Between Oceans is a compelling debut about the limits of love and parenthood— and forgiveness too. No wonder it made The New York Times bestseller list.

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Giraffe Days

Good
on Dec 30 2014

There were parts where it lagged a bit, and towards the end it became more about telling the story rather than showing it, but overall it is a good story well told. More importantly, it packs an emotional wallop that had me reaching for the tissues several times.

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Everyday I Write the Book

Above average
on Apr 01 2014

There are definitely a few implausible plot twists – like the baby surviving the shipwreck in the first place, as well as some too-convenient timing that happened later in the book. I also recognize that the story is predictable and melodramatic at times. I still liked it.

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Karan Brooks

Excellent
on Sep 11 2012

I was not disappointed. The Light Between Oceans is a beautiful, moving tale...Sublimely written, poetic in its intensity and frailty, this novel places terrible choices into complex contexts and, in doing so, creates characters who are fully realised,

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Mrs. Q Book Addict

Good
on Sep 11 2012

The Light Between the Oceans is a debut novel that will keep readers thinking...Stedman has created a wonderful story line, one that is believable, emotional and heartbreaking.

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For Winter Nights

Good
on Oct 07 2016

The Light Between Oceans is an extraordinary debut that more than rewards the emotion that you’ll invest in it.

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I Was Angelized 1st

Good
on Feb 17 2014

I’ll admit that the character I loved the most was the child, Lucy. Lucy is the glue that holds everyone together, and the one I empathized with the most. If you’re looking for a book that’s hard to put down and thought-provoking, check out The Light Between Oceans.

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Dolce Bellezza

Good
Reviewed by Bellezza in M. L. Stedman on Aug 09 2013

I wept when I read the conclusion. But it is the only possible way for the story to end, for a child caught between two mothers. Just as the lighthouse is between two oceans.

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Literary Hoarders

Good
Reviewed by Penny on Aug 03 2012

So dear reader, which woman is now to be forced to make an ultimate sacrifice...This is something I will not spoil for you must certainly pick this one up to discover on your own.

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Bookmagnet

Good
on Jul 31 2012

I miss Janus Rock. I miss Tom and Isabel. If you get caught up in Stedman’s debut, you will miss them too. Stedman seduces the reader into helping cover up a crime. The Light between Oceans mesmerizes the reader.

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Book Monkey

Good
on Apr 30 2012

Stedman has proved herself as a wonderful new voice in fiction, and I honestly can’t wait to see what she will write next. My only sorrow is that I wish this had been included in the Waterstones 11 selection of debut novels, as I think it deserves much more recognition

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Patricia's Wisdom

Good
Reviewed by Patricia on Sep 16 2013

I am sharing this book from a recent book group discussion, because our group just enjoyed this book from start to finish...The writing is not frenzied or hurried, it is a waltz surrounded in our own arms and thoughts.

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http://wednesdaybookreview.wordpress.com

Good
Reviewed by Arlene Somerton Smith on May 29 2013

This book has complex but believable characters, well-developed plot and pacing, and gripping themes. I recommend it.

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Valeehill

Good
on Aug 22 2012

Ultimately, I am pleased I was able to finish (within one day) and quite relieved by the post script style ending. I'm quite impressed by this debut novel and look forward to reading more of M.L. Stedman's work.

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More 2 Read

Excellent
on Jul 31 2012

The harrowing journey the characters go through in the light that started in the oceans has yours in heart in your throat at times and you are guaranteed to have thoughts on love, betrayal...remain for some time in your mind.

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Dog Ear Discs

Good
on Apr 26 2012

The book deals with the best and worst of humanity and society while still delivering a competent story of love and loss. The Light Between Oceans will linger on long after the final page has turned.

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Marisa Reads It and Writes It

Good
Reviewed by marisamoen on Sep 19 2012

I read with a sense of foreboding, waiting for that moment to come. This is the only reason it was not entirely enjoyable for me, although I did have a very good feeling about the book when I turned the last page. I would definitely recommend The Light Between Oceans, and I can see why it is on all of those ‘must read’ lists at the moment.

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The Literary Kitty Blog

Good
on Mar 14 2012

So buy this book if you want beautiful prose, a gripping plot and characters so painfully, beautifully real you can practically hear them breathing on the sofa next to you. I promise you won’t regret it.

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Isabel Costello

Good
Reviewed by Isabel Costello on May 10 2012

The final chapter, set much later in 1950, sounded the only false note for me, but it didn’t change my view of the book. The Light Between Oceans has all that I look for. Despite having a literary feel it is intensely readable and will appeal to an unusually wide market, and even (the holy grail) to women and men.

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Fleur Fisher in her world

Good
on Apr 25 2012

The ending wasn’t obvious, it wasn’t perfect, but it was right. This is an extraordinary debut novel.

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The Book Jotter

Good
on Oct 07 2016

I think the isolation that Stedman uses in this book, is not one of loneliness but of a greater element, the elements all around us living, the sea the greatest of them all perhaps? A début novel from an author that I feel has much more to give and look forward to reading what comes.

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Esmerelda's Book Thing

Good
Reviewed by Amy on Jul 13 2015

This is a page turner and a tear jerker all in one book. I sobbed pretty well through the last few chapters. It was a beautiful story, a tad overwrought in places, and I think the author wrote it to be turned into a movie because there were definitely some cinematic scenes...

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The Little Bookworm

Excellent
Reviewed by chloemetzger on May 28 2013

This novel absolutely warmed and shattered my heart all at once. I honestly can not remember a book that has touched me in this way before, even my favorite The Storyteller didn’t make my heart ache this much.

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Reader Rating for The Light Between Oceans
85%

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