the wonderful world of veena.

28 January 2014

book update: the light between oceans [m l stedman]

You know how there are those books that have so much promise, so much anticipation, but they can't quite seem to find their footing? That was The Light Between the Oceans [ML Stedman] for me.

The premise is enough to get you hooked: A couple living on an island off the coast of Australia in the 1920s discover a dead man and a living baby in a boat that washes up on the shore. Tom, the husband, is the keeper of the lighthouse on Janus, an island many hours off the coast of Australia and pretty isolated from the rest of the world. Isabel is his wife, a young woman quietly suffering the pain of two miscarriages and a recent stillbirth. Her greatest desire is to be a mother, and his greatest desire is to do whatever it takes to make his wife happy, so when Isabel convinces Tom to go against his training and not report the boat, the body, or the baby [how about that alliteration?] to the mainland, he puts aside his misgivings for her sake. What follows is the story of all the lives that are changed by his decision: theirs; the baby's; Isabel's parents, whose two sons were killed in WW1; and the baby's mother, who is trapped in the fog of hope and despair in wondering what happened to her husband and child.

See how that plot draws you in? It seems like a blockbuster read. How do Tom and Isabel reconcile their love for the baby with the consequences of their decision? How will others react if and when they discover the truth? And how will the author reveal the truth to the all-important character of the baby's biological mother? And then what will happen from there?

All valid questions, and all things that are answered in due course, but getting to that point was a bit cumbersome.

The beginning of the book was the most difficult part for me. Tom is introduced slowly, and a patchy background is provided for him, but then suddenly his courtship with Isabel is sped through and they are married and living on Janus together. When Britney and I were talking about it, we both agreed that there was a lot of build-up but then it seemed everything was over really fast.

The first two-thirds of the book was pretty back-and-forth for me. There were chapters that were quite captivating, but then there were others that just seemed like fillers, and I found them frivolous. And I got quite tired of the back-and-forth between Tom saying they needed to come clean and Isabel insisting that too much time had passed and that they should keep quiet about the whole ordeal. The more Tom's conscience interferes, and the more Isabel insists that nothing can be done, the more frayed their relationship becomes.

But the final third was pretty good. It certainly went faster than the previous bits of the book, and I felt like there was more action going on. And it presented a very interesting conundrum that I won't ruin here for anyone who's not yet read the book. It took some time to get there, but I think I'm happy with how the book ended. It was a story that was obviously not going to be 'happy' for everyone, but I think Stedman did what needed to be done.

Overall I think it was a good book, but I do think it could have been much, much better. My biggest complaint - and I've already spoken to Britney at length about this - was how the voice would change suddenly in the middle of a chapter. A majority of the book was written in passive voice, but there would be random sections within each chapter written in active voice, and then it would return to passive. Not really a big fan of that.

I'm glad I read it, because I do think the story was quite interesting. I'd love to hear what others who have read it think to know if I'm the only one who was just a bit disappointed in the beginning.

currently reading: Life After Life [Kate Atkinson], from my list of the ones I want to read this year. roughly 85 pages in and enjoying it immensely.

No comments:

Post a Comment