Light Between Oceans

I put The Light Between Oceans on my ‘to-read’ list, because it came up on a few ‘best of the year’ lists. It was a mistake.

The book starts with a mildly interesting premise, but then doesn’t really live up to that potential. One of the metrics I’ve started using (although it’s not definitive, and doesn’t need to be the only way to think about a book) is ‘how did the characters change? What decisions did they make?’. In relation to that, The Light Between Oceans felt underwhelming. There are two or three major decision points, but they don’t feel fleshed out; as a reader I felt as though I was external to the action, just seeing it happen randomly without quite fully understanding why it had happened, or how a character had reached a particular decision.

Which is fine, except that most of the book is about emotions, feelings and decisions, but in a kind of vague way. You can see the book trailer here, and I feel like it perfectly reflects the intense, dramatic, feel-y feel of the book. If the tag-line ‘They followed their hearts, and broke the rules. What happened next, will break yours’ is something that grabs you, this may be the book for you. Otherwise, it may not live up to its potential.

The story follows a couple living on a light-house. There is a child involved, and a tragic loss occurs for various characters. Which is all fine, and interesting, and a very important premise that’s full of potential. It’s just that I felt as though by the end, I didn’t really understand how the characters had changed; they’d just been very emotional, and significant, and had their emotions reflected in the natural surroundings they moved through.

I did find it moving at times, but I felt as though I resented the author at the same time. As though the emotion they’d wrung out of the situation was because of the story they’d chosen, rather than their ability to work with it. In the same way that someone holding up a picture of a crying child can make you feel bad, even though they haven’t really connected with you emotionally.

Might be worth if it there’s nothing else in the holiday home on a long weekend.

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2 thoughts on “Light Between Oceans

  1. The Brain in the Jar March 22, 2015 / 9:43 am

    Your descriptions of it reminds me a little of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, which I’m reading now. It’s also about a lighthouse, and is less about the actions and more about the emotions and observations. I’m just at the beginning though. I hope I won’t be as disappointed as you were.

    Light Between Oceans is a very nice title. It’s a shame it was wasted on a book that relies solely on emotional appeals.

  2. quietlypondering March 22, 2015 / 11:30 am

    Hi

    I’ve started ‘To the Lighthouse’, but not finished it. From the little I’ve read (Orlando and a Room of One’s Own), I’ve found Woolf a much, much better writer than Stedman. I don’t think it being about emotions and observations per se, just that Stedman didn’t convey that part very well. Woolf, I found (at least in Orlando) creates an incredibly rich internal world in her characters’ experiences.
    I’d be interested to hear what you think of ‘To the Lighthouse’.

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