Wednesday, 3 April 2013
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
The Light Between Oceans has had a bit of buzz on book blogs, so I was excited to see it long-listed for the Women's Prize for Fiction this year. I picked it up with high hopes but unfortunately the novel didn't quite work for me. There were many elements I liked about it but as a whole, it felt a bit lacking.
Starting with what I liked: I loved the remote setting of Janus island and how vividly the sea is described by Stedman. We get to see the power of nature helping Tom to recover from the war and there are many lovely scenes where Isabel, newly arrived to the island, explores all the hidden caves and coves. The writing about the setting was beautiful; I could almost taste the salt from the sea. I also appreciated how Stedman refrained from making a moral judgement on Tom and Isabel, everything was kept deliberately ambiguous. A lot of their actions could be seen as right or wrong, and it was left up to the reader to decide for themselves what they would have done in Isabel's situation. I liked that the tone of the book was completely non-judgemental.
However, I never connected properly with either Tom or Isabel and this is where the book fell down. I certainly felt sorry for them after Isabel's miscarriages and still-births but Isabel especially remained an emotionally distant figure. I needed to engage with her more for the book to really work. Also, the story covered a long time span and some parts were more interesting than others. The beginning and end were strong, but the middle lacked that special something.
On the whole, The Light Between Oceans is a solid, well written book. It just didn't quite work for me personally. I wouldn't be surprised to see it on the short-list.
First Published: 2012
Score: 3 out of 5
Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg - This was longlisted for the Orange Prize this year and is a similar story of a couple starting a life together on a deserted island, this time the Hebrides in the 1830s.