I love reading books before I see their films. I haven’t been able to do it a lot in the last few years, due to school and laziness if I’m completely honest with you. In the last couple of months however I have had the opportunity to read The Girl on the Train and The Light Between Oceans before seeing their film counter parts, and I still haven’t seen The Light Between Oceans and won’t until it comes out on DVD in Australia in February.
Books lose their magic when you attempt to read them after seeing their film, or so I’ve found. I was lucky enough to read Harry Potter and Narnia before I saw the films, but other stories like Me Before You and Game of Thrones unfortunately were viewed before hand. And as much as I wanted to read Me Before You, I just couldn’t get into it, Game of Thrones is tedious in itself, so I blame my own lack of initiative for not having read them.
My point is, when reading a book for the first time, with absolutely no idea of what you’re getting yourself into, it is a pretty special experience. I had that with The Light Between Oceans. This book makes you question everything you ever thought you knew about love, loyalty and duty. Without giving too much away, Tom Sherbourne, a World War I veteran, travels to a small town in Western Australia in order to sign papers for his new lighthouse keeping job on Janus Island. While there he comes across Isabel Graysmark, a local girl who generally chooses to see the beauty in things others choose not to. He finds her as enchanting as she finds Janus Island.
Now, every good story needs a tragedy, right? After Tom and Isabel wed, she moves to Janus Island, and they enjoy their married life together, for a time. Isabel struggles to get pregnant and it has a terrible effect on her. While in the midst of a crisis a baby’s cry is heard on the wind…
Things get real from here on out.
When a baby and a mans body wash ashore in a dingy, Isabel convinces herself that the baby’s mother is also dead having found a woman’s cardigan inside the small boat. Not wanting the child to be put into an orphanage, she begs Tom not to report the new arrivals and explains her reasons for wanting to keep the baby girl. Tom, a soldier through and through and a believer in rules is against the idea at first, but sees the pain and heartbreak Isabel has gone through in not having children and allows her to keep the baby.
When the reader finds out the baby’s real mother is alive and well and missing her baby daughter and husband, things get even realer!
I’ve read some fairly damning reviews of this book, saying Isabel is crazy and selfish, and going as far as saying they hate her character, asking questions like “who would even think of keeping a baby?” and “why would you assume the child’s parents are dead?”, which I do get, it is a an abstract concept. But I also find this book believable, especially with its setting. The book is set in the 1920’s, an era when people relied on prayer and God, and to Isabel, a baby turning up on their doorstep, right after everything that her and Tom had been through, was a Godsend, and I don’t think her character deserves the backlash it has been receiving. Like I said, this book makes you question all your values and it is easy to see every characters side of the story, Tom’s, Isabel’s and Hannah’s, the mother of the baby. You can’t choose just one side to be on because they all have valid points. I don’t know about other readers of this book, but I found it easy to put myself in the shoes of every character and feel everything they were feeling.
I would absolutely recommend this book, it is well written, compelling and different. To say otherwise because of your dislike towards one character is not a good enough reason for me! Yes, it will rip your heart in 3 to 4 directions but it is well worth it.