The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

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The Light Between Oceans is about a couple who met, fall in love, suffered through several miscarriages and found themselves with a miracle when a boat neared their lighthouse and inside it contained a baby with a dead body beside her. The story became largely conflicted when they found out that the baby still have a mother who yearns for her.

Initially, I had thought this book would be a little different from average literary fiction that I’ve read. In the first page, I got hooked by the intensity between the character and particularly enjoy the foreshadowing and foreboding. But little did I know, the prologue is just a smokescreen because it took another half for the story to carry the momentum that it began and soon it became utterly predictable.

One of the reason for a person to read was to empathize with the characters through reading. However, I found both Tom and Isabel to be one dimensional character. Despite the length to descriptively entice the readers about the luscious rural Australia settings and the history, I find I was much better at appreciating either of those accompanied with character development in fiction or just read it off a map via non-fiction. I suppose many would have berate me for seeking some redeeming characterizations with literary fiction and would have focus on the emotional strife that these characters suffered throughout their life. But it was hard for me not to mentally kick these two characters for being so archetypal.

Tom is one of those archetypal male omega character with some moral compass but without the backbone to confront his equally archetypal wife about her need to have a baby after suffering several miscarriages. Even written by a woman, Isabel herself is a very simplistic character without any complexes instead of the occasional reference of how she was so ‘vibrantly alive’, beautiful, love to play with piano and love children that border on obsessive etc. Its much harder to empathize with these two characters than I do with Hannah Roennfeldt, Lucy’s real mother. Curiously, Tom was willing to bend to Isabel’s hysterics and suffered through condemnation and accusation just to save his melancholic wife.

Hannah was a character that I became increasingly intrigued with as I go on. Finding out that her child is alive but never seem to recognize her as a mother, losing her beloved husband and the child that connected him to her was no longer ‘hers’. Naturally, I was more sympathetic toward her and then I was quite disappointed that she was reduced to a supporting character to a much dull main characters and their predictable end. Sure, normal people are supposed to be dull but what is the point of a dramatic fiction without complex characters?

I am sure that the book will do well in the form of movie because that was the usual the case with literary fiction filled with descriptive details of a place somewhere in the middle of nowhere. However, I have learn not to romanticize with the idea to reduce any case of whatever disappointment it could happen if I were to arrive in that place. Plus, most of these would be non-verbal, thus reducing any unnecessary details one could encounter with this story. Not that I mind reading descriptive literature but above all, I like it better if it was seamless between the scenes and dialogues. The book should have been shorter and more condensed if the author would occupy herself making the story more complicated than the surface detailing which was utterly forgotten after several dozen chapters or so. Its just a waste of time if you are an attentive reader who want to immerse with the story.

Since I became emotionally invested around the ending of the novel, at that point I do admire Stedman’s storytelling and felt how the story should have been if the author implement it throughout the novel. Sadly, I find the side characters are more intriguing than the main characters. The descriptive should have been limited and some unnecessary scenes should have opted out from the novel. The transition between the narrating characters should have been more defined and I frequently caught myself in between phrases that suddenly switch from one time to another, from one character to another and so on.

Interesting premise, lacking character consistencies, predictable but enjoyable if you love these kind of dramatic fiction.

The Light Between Oceans is a review copy supplied by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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