The Light Between Oceans Review

Rating: 4 Stars

As the second book I would review as part of the Hooked To Books Challenge, I decided to go with one I had heard a lot of buzz about lately.  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman was recently made into a film, featuring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander.  I’d seen the trailer on television, marked it in the back of my mind as interesting, and basically forgot about it until I saw the novel in Barnes and Noble.  The summary seemed interesting enough, so I bought it on sale and took it home.

The Light Between Oceans is the tale of a man, Tom Sherborne, and his wife Isabel, who live on the isolated island of Janus Rock in Western Australia and care for the lighthouse there.  After three unfortunate miscarriages and much despair, a man and child wash ashore during the storm.  The man is dead, but the baby is alive.  A cardigan makes the couple think the mother must have drowned.  Instead of reporting the deaths and returning the baby ashore, Isabel convinces Tom that the child is a gift from God, and that they must raise it.  A few years later, happy with their daughter, Tom and Isabel go ashore on the mainland to find that the child’s true mother is not dead- but in fact has been waiting for her child all along.  

How could you not be interested at that prospect.  I had never heard such a plotline, and was instantly intrigued.  The novel did not disappoint- well written and insanely suspenseful, the pages seemed to breeze by without my noticing, even as I dug deeper into the conflict between Tom and Isabel’s guilt and their love for their newfound daughter.  

The only reason I would provide The Light Between Oceans with four stars instead of five is because the ending was so heart-wrenching, and not in a way you are used to.  Often in novels, when something goes wrong or it ends in a way you were not expecting, it is justified.  However, I felt the characters, near the end of the novel, just let things happen.  The daughter- Lucy-’s feelings towards her biological mother were of fear.  She wanted to be with Isabel and Tom.  I felt that was justified- the people that raised her were her parents, regardless of blood.  The other mother suffered, and it is saddening what happened to her family, but I feel none of the characters were thinking of what was best for the daughter.  You feel so terrible for her, and for Isabel and Tom who had loved her and cared for her, only to watch her be taken.

The novel truly makes you think about what it means to be a family.  Blood never made a difference to Isabel and Tom.  They loved their ‘daughter’ like none other.  It never made a difference to Lucy either, who was in paradise on Janus with her ‘parents’.  Readers are used to feeling distressed in romance novels, where a loved one dies.  But reading The Light Between Oceans bring to light a different kind of love- the bond between parent and child.  It is unmarked territory, and M.L. Stedman set her flag there beautifully.  I definitely recommend anyone read it, especially if you are wanting to know what that parental bond feels like.  

Review 1: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Overall Rating: 5 Stars

After receiving the IB Booklist last summer, I started stocking up on all the books required for my program.  Atonement by Ian McEwan (by the way a review and reading aide is coming soon), Beloved by Toni Morrison, and yes, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  The interesting traits of Satrapi’s novel, compared to the other texts in the IB curriculum for English, is that it is an autobiographical piece.  Satrapi writes of her childhood in Iran during the early 1980s, during the Islamic Revolution.  In addition to her diverse genre and topic, Satrapi also stuns with the medium of her autobiography: a graphic novel.

At first blush, I was unsure of reading the novel.  I had never read a graphic novel before, and the topic of the Islamic Revolution, in my mind, seemed too dark to draw pictures of.  However, my reservations were soon dismissed.  Persepolis is a fantastic example of catering to the audience.  In order to reach more people with her story, Satrapi illustrated her childhood.  People who didn’t like to read or didn’t have the time could still learn about the Revolution and truly understand what was going on.  

Despite having such an economy of words and limited color (the drawings are in black and white), Satrapi expertly crafted Persepolis’ setting, characters, and historical context into an understandable narrative, illustrating the innocence of a childhood that was stolen by national strife.  Taking place in the latter part of the 20th century in Iran, Satrapi describes her country as a Westernized society, filled with western pop culture.  Bands and artists like Iron Maiden and Michael Jackson.  But on the other side of the coin was the government’s fight for theocracy and a strict social order, trying to turn their people away from western ideals.  With her own parents at the forefront of the fight against the new government, Satrapi grew up in a home filled with freethinking, foreign literature, and civil unrest.  Her life at home and the ideals she had learned from her parents clashed with those she learned in her now gender-segregated school.  The introduction and mandate of traditions like the veiling of women and religious practices greatly affected Satrapi’s view on her religion, her country, and even herself.  

I do not want to spoil anything in the novel, because it is truly a short read.  Thus, I believe it is a book you should read for yourself.  I could tell you all day about the Revolution and what was going on, but Satrapi wrote Persepolis to bear witness to the events that took place.  She was there, and her account is a story essential to wrapping your head around what was happening in Iran at the time, and even now. Satrapi’s greatest achievement in writing Persepolis is changing our point of view.  In the west, and particularly nowadays, we tend to see media bashings of Muslims and people from the Middle East.  We have a grossly biased view of how people live, and Persepolis has challenged and disproved all of these prejudices.  It is such an important read, and an important point of view, in today’s world.  A truly well-thought piece from start to finish, and a high recommendation from me for your next literary endeavor.  

If you read Persepolis, let me know by commenting on this post and telling me what you think!  I’d love to know what you got from Satrapi’s story- I may have seen it too!

Much love,

Brainiac Blonde