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BOOK LOVE: The Light Between Oceans By M.L. Stedman

This is a story of right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same …
1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world. 

One April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.

Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds …

What a sensational debut by ML Stedman! Even the strapline is one of the best I’ve read: This is the story of right and wrong, and how they sometimes look the same. I loved so much about this book. The central dilemma is absorbing, and I found myself alternately rooting for (and sometimes angry with) each of the characters as they struggle to find resolution. Throughout the story, the descriptions are mesmerising. My favourite lines are 96 pages in: ‘In a place before words, in some other language of creature to creature, with the softening of her muscles, the relaxing of her neck, the baby signalled her trust. Having come so close to the hands of death, life now infused with life like water meets water.’ I did find the beginning a little bit slow, but it’s well worth persevering. ML Stedman manipulates her narrative like a master, and I’m looking forward to finding out what she does next.

NB: This book has been optioned for a film too, and I hope it gets made. It would be great to see a story based in Western Australia on the big screen.

 

Pages

Beneath the Shadows

Book Group Questions for Beneath the Shadows

1. The past is still too close to us… How does the past infiltrate and affect the present in Beneath the Shadows?

2. Grace is driven by her need for resolution: did you see this as an obstacle or a necessity for her?

3. Ghosts, omens, clocks that stop and start by themselves – is there a supernatural element in Roseby, or was it all just a figment of Grace’s imagination?

4. Windows and reflections are strong symbols in the novel. How do you interpret their significance?

5. Not only is Grace reading Rebecca, but throughout the book the classic novel is alluded to in others ways too. Consider these parallels, and what they contribute to the story.

6. By the end, the mystery of Adam’s disappearance is resolved. Yet Adam didn’t tell Grace where he’d put their money, his relationship with Jenny, or the existence of the cellar. How much do you think the reader gets to know the ‘real’ Adam?

7. How did you interpret Grace’s strange dreams? Were they warnings, her subconscious trying to process her fears, or something else?

8. How important is Annabel to the story? What role does she play?

9. Is Meredith a villain or a victim?

10. By going through their belongings and their memories, Grace seems to be trying to understand who Adam’s grandparents were. How far can she succeed, do you think? And why is this so important to her?