The Light Between Oceans: A Novel

Paperback | March 5, 2013

byM.L. Stedman

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This months-long New York Times bestseller is “irresistible…seductive…with a high concept plot that keeps you riveted from the first page,” (O, The Oprah Magazine).

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.

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From the Publisher

This months-long New York Times bestseller is “irresistible…seductive…with a high concept plot that keeps you riveted from the first page,” (O, The Oprah Magazine). 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 fro...

Originally from Western Australia, M L Stedman has lived in London for many years, where she worked as a lawyer. She first decided to try creative writing in 1997. In the years that followed she did a few writing courses, and some of her short stories were published in anthologies. The Light Between Oceans is M L Stedman's debut novel,...

other books by M.L. Stedman

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Paperback|Jan 15 2014


The Light Between Oceans: A Novel
The Light Between Oceans: A Novel

Audio Book (CD)|Aug 23 2016

$23.36 online$25.99list price(save 10%)
Het licht van de zee: Een kinderloos echtpaar vindt een baby... en neemt een noodlottige beslissing
Het licht van de zee: Een kinderloos echtpaar vindt een...

Kobo ebook|Jun 15 2012

$9.09 online$11.69list price(save 22%)
see all books by M.L. Stedman
Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8 × 5.25 × 0.8 inPublished:March 5, 2013Publisher:ScribnerLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1476738084

ISBN - 13:9781476738086

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from In love!!! I wasn't to sure what to expect when I read the cover but thought I would give it a try before the movie came out. I ended up falling in love with this book and the characters. Stedman created a love story between parents and a child and how adopting can have the same affect as having your own child. This was not just the typical romance between a couple but so much more.
Date published: 2016-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it!!! A friend loaned me her copy of "The Light Between Oceans". This was a truly, truly wonderful story. In my experience, the movies usually are a disappointment and I can't bear to have my memory of the story besmirched. Awesome book!
Date published: 2016-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED THIS BOOK I had to push through the first few chapters but once the storyline picked up I just couldn't put the book down! The narration really puts you in each of the characters shoes and you get a real good sense of what each character is feeling! A great read for those who like tear-jerker plots! I've been recommending it to everyone!
Date published: 2016-08-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Meh Moved to slowly for my liking. Actually gave up reading it.
Date published: 2016-08-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Worth it A very enjoyable book.
Date published: 2016-07-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read! I enjoyed reading this story. For the people who like to compare books with movies can do so this September when the movie comes out.
Date published: 2016-07-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from made me feel as though I was right there in Australia After witnessing the autrocities of WWI, Tom Sherbourne seeks the solace of running a remote light house offshore of southwest shore of Australia. During his shore visits he meets and falls in love with Isabel. After courting, they settle into married life. Their domestic bliss is challenged by two miscarriages followed by a still birth. Life reaches a critical point when a rowboat reaches their shore with a tiny baby crying out for care. Do they seize this opportunity to have the family they have longed for. I loved this book. It explored a lifestyle I can never lead, living on a remote island with no social contact for six months at a time. It takes a unique person to want to live this life. I enjoyed learning of Tom's story and why he felt compelled to live on the island. I was less entranced with Isabel, though she was a woman in love who would follow her man anywhere specially if it was far from her parents home. It lead me to several times when I had to ask myself what would I have done were I in their situation. I listened to the audiobook as read by Noah Taylor. 10 hours 22 minutes unabridged. Mr. Taylor's accent made me feel as though I really was in Australia, not sitting in my living room in Canada. He easily met the challenge of voicing the rough sailors and the more refined and educated city people.
Date published: 2016-06-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good book. bad condition. Book was decent but unfortunately i bought this online and a page was ripped and by the time I got to read it I could no longer return it unfortunately.
Date published: 2016-05-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Boring I hated this book
Date published: 2016-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from beautiful heartbreaking book I loved this book! I felt so much compassion for Isabel & Tom. This book really makes you think about how your actions affect others And it makes you put yourself in the shoes of others, think about how they feel. It also makes you think about the choices you make & why you make them. It was so beautifully written. Can't wait for more from M.L. Stedman. I'm also excited for the movie!
Date published: 2016-05-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from heartbreaking This novel was well written and the story is very compelling. It also pulls on the heart strings for women who can't have children and their pain. There is no neat an tidy solution for this story. It was a tragic novel but one that was a pleasure to read and be a part of feeling the characters sadness.
Date published: 2016-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly recommended Excellent novel; well written; couldn't stop reading it
Date published: 2016-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book Really enjoyed this book and it's very thought provoking.
Date published: 2015-10-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing read Very well written and loved the internal struggles of the main characters. Begs the question, what would you do?
Date published: 2015-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved every minute of this book. When it comes out as a movie. I will be the first in line. I read it over a year ago, and I still talk about it to people who are looking for a good read. I lived all the characters and I was so sad when the book ended. I highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2015-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Light Between Oceans A friend recommended this book to me and I'm really glad I listened. The story and characters were interesting and the book had many twists and turns. I loved this book!
Date published: 2015-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really Enjoyable Book I really enjoyed this book, the story was compelling and really caught me up in their lives.
Date published: 2015-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Light Between Oceans A great read. It tugged at my heart. Well written with a story line that kept it moving .Did not want to put it down. Was surprised by the ending!
Date published: 2015-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, thought-provoking read Once you get through the first few chapters, which are filled with very important context and background to the overall story, the book is impossible to put down. A truly heart-wrenching story that blurs the line of what society may see as "right" and "wrong". An amazing book! Would be an excellent read for a book club because of the differences in opinion that I am sure would emerge as to you read and relate to certain characters.
Date published: 2015-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read Tom is a lighthouse keeper off the west coast of Australia. He and his wife Isabel find a baby and a dead man washed up on the beach. They bury the man but keep the baby girl a their own. Years later, back on the mainland, Tom hears of a mother who lost her husband and baby and wants to make it right.
Date published: 2015-03-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good read A heartbreaking story about the love one has for a child. The author did a great job creating sympathy for characters on both sides. I wasn't sure where I wanted the story to go.
Date published: 2015-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! Very emotional story. It will definitely tug at your heart strings. I couldn't put this book down!!!!
Date published: 2015-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing The first couple of chapters were a little slow, but then it really picked up. It was an incredible read. I even cried toward the end.
Date published: 2014-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The light between oceans Beautiful book....loved it
Date published: 2014-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Light Between the Oceans Emotional and beautiful.
Date published: 2014-10-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ok read... I think I was expecting a bit more from the book...
Date published: 2014-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The light between oceans Excellent, made me cry!
Date published: 2014-10-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Light Between Oceans. This novel presents an interesting twist on a traditional plot. It is Shakespearian in nature. You at time hate and love each character. Great book. I'll tell others not to miss it.
Date published: 2014-09-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Light Between Oceans Loved it....started out a bit slow though...
Date published: 2014-09-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Light Between Oceans Loved it....started out a bit slow though...
Date published: 2014-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must read! Awesome book, makes you think about the decisions we make that shape our lives.
Date published: 2014-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from poignant This is the kind of book you want to find on a holiday. The characters are so well defined that you sympathize with all of them.
Date published: 2014-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The light between two oceans An "I can't put it down read"!!! Nicely done.
Date published: 2014-08-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Satisfying. A good read. Couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2014-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such a perfect read! A must read! You really become a part of each character.. feeling their feelings, and so much more! What a lovely tale!
Date published: 2014-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent read This novel is rexquisitelt written, full of love and raw emotion and difficult choices. Both a well-worn story and full of new twists, it compels the reader to reflect on the many "what ifs" it evocatively insists cannot, must not be explored. When right and wrong are so intricately interwoven that one is the underbelly of the other, the choices we make seem ineffectual and powerless to make any difference. But they do, and despite the seeming vortex of hopelessness, the currents flow true and straight in the end. A most deserving read.
Date published: 2014-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Light Between Oceans This is a beautifully written and incredibly tragic story. Anyone who has ever loved a child, even if she has never lost a child,can identify with the mothers in this story. Each wanting to believe that she knows what is best for the child but in reality, each is looking to the child to complete something in themselves. I will read it again.
Date published: 2014-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Light Between Oceans A great book if you're a period piece fan. A balance of ethical duty and passion of the heart: you'll put yourself in the characters' positions over and over again to ask yourself what the right path really is.....
Date published: 2014-07-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A quick and interesting read. At first I found it hard to believe I would like this novel but once getting into it I found I had a hard time putting it down. As with many novels I end up enjoying the overall scenery and history of it swept me away. In addition to the scenery and culture though I found I became emotionally linked to the characters. I found myself struggling between Isabel's wants and needs and tom's, which at times seemed in line and at others, totally at odds. It was a slow start for me but once I got a couple of chapters in I couldn't set it down.
Date published: 2014-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magnificent novel What a great gift author ML Stedman has given to readers all over the world with this contribution to English literature. The author's wisdom and emotional intelligence displayed in this novel are only paralleled by her unique ability to bring it to the page with such imagination and an inspired craft of words.  Stedman's literary artistry and her gift to create such vivid imagery with the printed word is truly remarkable.  It is an unforgettable reading experience.
Date published: 2013-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy reading and beautiful. Once you start, it is hard to put this book away.  You feel like Janus island cornered between two powerful oceans full of emotions.
Date published: 2013-11-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Story! This book was great. Very visual and appealing. At times it could get slow, but none the less I would recommend it.
Date published: 2013-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Light Between Oceans This was one of the best book I have read. A woman who desperately wants to raise kids get the opportunity of rescuing a baby at the ocean. She feels that it was Gods gift and enjoys her motherhood days. But to her dismay she finds that the baby's real mother is alive and struggles to accept that it is not her own child. The author deserves much praise for giving vivid descriptions. It was a poignant and compelling story to read.
Date published: 2013-06-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Moving! The author does a fantastic job of blurring the lines of morality in this tragic tale of two families struggling with loss and longing. A woman desperate to have a child rescues a baby lost at sea and suddenly realizes her dreams of motherhood. Years later when she learns the baby’s mother is alive, she is forced to make a gruelling decision. It will tug at your heart.
Date published: 2013-04-19

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Thousands of miles away on the west coast, Janus Rock was the furthest place on the continent from Tom’s childhood home in Sydney. But Janus Light was the last sign of Australia he had seen as his troopship steamed for Egypt in 1915. The smell of the eucalypts had wafted for miles offshore from Albany, and when the scent faded away he was suddenly sick at the loss of something he didn’t know he could miss. Then, hours later, true and steady, the light, with its five-second flash, came into view—his homeland’s furthest reach—and its memory stayed with him through the years of hell that followed, like a farewell kiss. When, in June 1920, he got news of an urgent vacancy going on Janus, it was as though the light there were calling to him.Teetering on the edge of the continental shelf, Janus was not a popular posting. Though its Grade One hardship rating meant a slightly higher salary, the old hands said it wasn’t worth the money, which was meager all the same. The keeper Tom replaced on Janus was Trimble Docherty, who had caused a stir by reporting that his wife was signaling to passing ships by stringing up messages in the colored flags of the International Code. This was unsatisfactory to the authorities for two reasons: first, because the Deputy Director of Lighthouses had some years previously forbidden signaling by flags on Janus, as vessels put themselves at risk by sailing close enough to decipher them; and secondly, because the wife in question was recently deceased.Considerable correspondence on the subject was generated in triplicate between Fremantle and Melbourne, with the Deputy Director in Fremantle putting the case for Docherty and his years of excellent service, to a Head Office concerned strictly with efficiency and cost and obeying the rules. A compromise was reached by which a temporary keeper would be engaged while Docherty was given six months’ medical leave.“We wouldn’t normally send a single man to Janus—it’s pretty remote and a wife and family can be a great practical help, not just a comfort,” the District Officer had said to Tom. “But seeing it’s only temporary… You’ll leave for Partageuse in two days,” he said, and signed him up for six months.There wasn’t much to organize. No one to farewell. Two days later, Tom walked up the gangplank of the boat, armed with a kit bag and not much else. The SS Prometheus worked its way along the southern shores of Australia, stopping at various ports on its run between Sydney and Perth. The few cabins reserved for first-class passengers were on the upper deck, toward the bow. In third class, Tom shared a cabin with an elderly sailor. “Been making this trip for fifty years—they wouldn’t have the cheek to ask me to pay. Bad luck, you know,” the man had said cheerfully, then returned his attention to the large bottle of over-proof rum that kept him occupied. To escape the alcohol fumes, Tom took to walking the deck during the day. Of an evening there’d usually be a card game belowdecks.You could still tell at a glance who’d been over there and who’d sat the war out at home. You could smell it on a man. Each tended to keep to his own kind. Being in the bowels of the vessel brought back memories of the troopships that took them first to the Middle East, and later to France. Within moments of arriving on board, they’d deduced, almost by an animal sense, who was an officer, who was lower ranks; where they’d been.Just like on the troopships, the focus was on finding a bit of sport to liven up the journey. The game settled on was familiar enough: first one to score a souvenir off a first-class passenger was the winner. Not just any souvenir, though. The designated article was a pair of ladies’ drawers. “Prize money’s doubled if she’s wearing them at the time.”The ringleader, a man by the name of McGowan, with a mustache, and fingers yellowed from his Woodbines, said he’d been chatting to one of the stewards about the passenger list: the choice was limited. There were ten cabins in all. A lawyer and his wife—best give them a wide berth; some elderly couples, a pair of old spinsters (promising), but best of all, some toff’s daughter traveling on her own.“I reckon we can climb up the side and in through her window,” he announced. “Who’s with me?”The danger of the enterprise didn’t surprise Tom. He’d heard dozens of such tales since he got back. Men who’d taken to risking their lives on a whim—treating the boom gates at level crossings as a gallop jump; swimming into rips to see if they could get out. So many men who had dodged death over there now seemed addicted to its lure. Still, this lot were free agents now. Probably just full of talk.The following night, when the nightmares were worse than usual, Tom decided to escape them by walking the decks. It was two a.m. He was free to wander wherever he wanted at that hour, so he paced methodically, watching the moonlight leave its wake on the water. He climbed to the upper deck, gripping the stair rail to counter the gentle rolling, and stood a moment at the top, taking in the freshness of the breeze and the steadiness of the stars that showered the night.Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a glimmer come on in one of the cabins. Even first-class passengers had trouble sleeping sometimes, he mused. Then, some sixth sense awoke in him—that familiar, indefinable instinct for trouble. He moved silently toward the cabin, and looked in through the window.In the dim light, he saw a woman flat against the wall, pinned there even though the man before her wasn’t touching her. He was an inch away from her face, with a leer Tom had seen too often. He recognized the man from belowdecks, and remembered the prize. Bloody idiots. He tried the door, and it opened.“Leave her alone,” he said as he stepped into the cabin. He spoke calmly, but left no room for debate.The man spun around to see who it was, and grinned when he recognized Tom. “Christ! Thought you were a steward! You can give me a hand, I was just—”“I said leave her alone! Clear out. Now.”“But I haven’t finished. I was just going to make her day.” He reeked of drink and stale tobacco.Tom put a hand on his shoulder, with a grip so hard that the man cried out. He was a good six inches shorter than Tom, but tried to take a swing at him all the same. Tom seized his wrist and twisted it. “Name and rank!”“McKenzie. Private. 3277.” The unrequested serial number followed like a reflex.“Private, you’ll apologize to this young lady and you’ll get back to your bunk and you won’t show your face on deck until we berth, you understand me?”“Yes, sir!” He turned to the woman. “Beg your pardon, Miss. Didn’t mean any harm.”Still terrified, the woman gave the slightest nod.“Now, out!” Tom said, and the man, deflated by sudden sobriety, shuffled from the cabin.“You all right?” Tom asked the woman.“I—I think so.”“Did he hurt you?”“He didn’t…”—she was saying it to herself as much as to him—“he didn’t actually touch me.”He took in the woman’s face—her gray eyes seemed calmer now. Her dark hair was loose, in waves down to her arms, and her fists still gathered her nightgown to her neck. Tom reached for her dressing gown from a hook on the wall and draped it over her shoulders.“Thank you,” she said.“Must have got an awful fright. I’m afraid some of us aren’t used to civilized company these days.”She didn’t speak.“You won’t get any more trouble from him.” He righted a chair that had been overturned in the encounter. “Up to you whether you report him, Miss. I’d say he’s not the full quid now.”Her eyes asked a question.“Being over there changes a man. Right and wrong don’t look so different any more to some.” He turned to go, but put his head back through the doorway. “You’ve got every right to have him up on charges if you want. But I reckon he’s probably got enough troubles. Like I said—up to you,” and he disappeared through the door.

Editorial Reviews

“Sublimely written, poetic in its intensity and frailty…This is a simply beautiful story that deserves the praise and wide audience it’s receiving. A stunning debut from a new voice that I can’t wait to hear again.”