Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)
I listen to a lot of audio books while traveling for work. I have listened to audio books that have had me in tears, laughing out loud, and cheering for the characters. I have listened to others and rolled my eyes at the awful portrayals and strange voices given to characters. For this review, I am considering the audio version of The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman, what I consider to be a very well-written and superbly narrated novel.
Tom Sherbourne spent several years fighting in World War I and, upon returning to Australia, he is assigned to be the lighthouse keeper on the remote island of Janus Rock. Just before heading to Janus for the first time, Tom meets Isabel Graysmark. Through occasional visits during shore leave and letters delivered with supplies, Tom and Isabel fall in love; they marry and she joins him on Janus. They have difficulty having a family of their own and after losing three children, they are both in a fragile state when a small boat washes up with a baby and a dead man. Isabel refuses to alert authorities of the little girl and Tom wants to do the right thing and report the foundling. Their battles of wills and conscience put their relationship in a tailspin.
The audio book is read by Australian actor Noah Taylor. He has recently been in Game of Thrones and the mini-series Hatfields & McCoys. There are times when Taylor put so much emotion into the words of Isabel and Tom that I physically flinched. Their raw emotions and embattled consciences are so clear. I’m not sure I would have been so solidly against Isabel had I read the book instead of listened to it. The one-sidedness of Isabel’s view of her family versus the biological family of the baby girl came across as selfishness rather than grief of the loss of her own children. Taylor gives Tom a steadfast but tortured voice.
Taylor is able to convey the calm, rational nature of Gwen (aunt of the baby) and the panic of Hannah (birth mother of the baby) in his delivery. I think the voice he gives Isabel’s mother is grating and annoying, which is how I view her character at times. His tone changes measurably with each character, man or woman, and enhances who they are, their relationships to Tom and Isabel, and their positions in the novel. I don’t know if I would have felt the same way about the characters if I would have read the book, if I would have interpreted their words and actions in the same way.
M. L. Stedman has written a gripping story of love and loss and how our love for other others and our grief can propel us into doing things we would otherwise consider irrational. Taylor gives a great voice to the characters and I think he upholds the integrity and beauty of the novel.
Have you read The Light Between Oceans? Do you feel the same way about the characters or are your feelings different due to reading the novel rather than listening to it?
What do you think of audio books? I love to immerse myself in a good book while in a car or plane but I know some people just can’t engage with the audio books. I’d love to hear your thoughts and any great audio book recommendations. Happy reading…or listening!