Thursday, 29 May 2014

Book Club: May

This year, I'm taking part in the majority of Bon's Book Club and it's time to review May's book
The Light Between Oceans by  M.L. Stedman...
Good Reads description:
"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 and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, 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, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. 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. 

"M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this 'gift from God'. And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss. 

"The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel."

My (spoiler-filled) Review:
This book broke. my. heart.
My heart broke for Isabel and Tom (time and time again), and also for Hannah (Lucy's birth mum). What a complex and disturbing moral dilemma Tom and Isabel faced. I understand Isabel's motives in wanting to keep the baby, believing that both parents were dead and that the baby would end up unloved and in an orphanage; I sympathise with Tom, who only wanted to make his wife smile again; oh and poor Hannah, who believed with every breath she took for five years that her daughter was still alive. 

This scene on pages 260 and 261 made me physically ache for everyone involved, including Hannah's sister and Isabel's parents...
"Lucy," said Hannah, as if pronouncing a word from a foreign language. She was staring at the child, and reached out to touch her arm. 
Isabel flinched with terror at the look in Hannah's eyes as she surveyed the little girl.
Lucy seemed hypnotised by the woman's touch. She studied the dark eyes, and neither smiled nor frowned, as though concentrating on a puzzle. "Mamma," she said, and both women blinked. She turned to Isabel. "Mamma," she said again, "I'm sleepy," and rubbed her eyes.
For the briefest of moments Isabel pictured herself handing Hannah the child.

I didn't know what to expect with the ending of this book, as really, what outcome would please everyone after so much heartache all around, but I think I was pretty pleased with how things turned out. I love that Tom and Isabel were able to continue to live their lives just the two of them once Lucy-Grace had been returned and they'd been punished for the 'crime' they committed. 

I don't know what I'd do if I were any one of the characters in this book; I don't think any of us can truly say that we'd do the 'right' or 'wrong' thing if presented with this situation in real life. However, this story has left me with a poignant sense of human resilience in the face of so much loss, and love. I'd highly recommend it.

Book club discussion questions:
Bonnie hasn't posted her discussion questions yet but as soon as she does, I'll edit this post and include them :)

EDIT: As promised...

Who would you consider the protagonist of the story- Isabel or Tom?  Why?  Who was your favourite character?
I think Tom and Isabel were equal protagonists in this story as Isabel wouldn't have moved to the island if it weren't for Tom, nor would Tom have kept Lucy if it weren't for Isabel and the horrific circumstances the couple found themselves in. I think I felt sorry for Isabel and could sympathise with how hard losing her babies must have been for her, but I think I identified with Tom more; he'd been through unspeakable horrors during the war and he'd finally found his slice of happiness with Isabel - any babies that came along to him were extra. I guess that's how I feel about me and my Hubby right now (without the horrors of war); we have one another and anything or anyone else who comes along is a bonus.

How did you feel about the end of the book?
I've answered this question above.

Did you like the writing style?  Why or why not?
When reading this book (in four days over three sittings), consideration of the writing style never entered my head, so I guess that means I did like it. It took a while to get into the book, but I think that's because of the flashbacks; once they were out of the way, I blitzed through the book. 

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Isabel's and Tom's relationship?
I guess the weakness is Tom's desire to do anything to please his wife and see her smile again, and I guess the strength of their relationship would be that they managed to survive together after losing their own babies and losing Lucy. You hear about so many couples whose relationships don't survive the death of a child, so the fact that they made a life together was wonderful to me; really hopeful.

What would you have done if you were Tom in that situation?  Do you agree with the way he handled the situation?  How did you feel about him trying to take all the blame to save Isabel?
I touched on this above, but I think Tom's only goal and motivation was to keep his wife, who he loved so dearly, happy. Tom simply wanted to restore the smile on Isabel's face, then Lucy wormed her way into his heart and he fell in love again. I think he took all the blame because he knew he would be able to handle prison much better than Isabel ever would, not to mention that the thought of her being in prison must have killed him, so he did what he could. He tried to take the blame and allow Isabel to live the life he thought she deserved.

This month I also read: 
Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth - the Divergent series is now complete!

Next month, Bon's Book Club is reading Matilda by Roald Dahl and, if I can find my library card, 
I'll be joining in, if not, I'll be reading something else :)
So, until then...
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  1. I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely a great book club choice! I loved how thought provoking the book was. I am a very "by the book" kind of person like Tom, but I found myself questioning what the "right" thing to do was the entire time. It was so sad and heartbreaking, but I felt like the author did a really good job wrapping everything up nicely so there wasn't any loose ends.

  2. "This story has left me with a poignant sense of human resilience in the face of so much loss, and love." So true! Great observation! I can see myself reading this book again in 5 or ten years. Beautifully written.