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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
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Robertson Davies
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The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel - M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans is the marriage of historical fiction with the tearjerker movie-of-the-week. Upfront, let me say I've liked my share of these movies; Deception: A Mother's Secret still gets me teary eyed with that fire truck and the yellow paint and... *sniffle* okay, enough about that. But those stories tend to be a bit too formulaic—a formula meant to manipulate the viewers'/readers' emotions--The Light Between Oceans is guilty of the same.

 

The Light Between Oceans is largely well-written; and I was willing to play along with the convenient plot points for a while, but then it all became too much. Interestingly, it wasn't even one of the major events of the novel that prompted my eye-rolling—it was the moment when Lucy wandered off. At that point, it all became too contrived. From that point on, all I could see was the bare frame the story was built upon.

 

It wasn't just the story that suffered from this manipulation, it was the characters as well. They're well-built strong characters until the moment the plot demands otherwise; suddenly, they become flexible, bending to the will of the story. By the novel's conclusion, I can say that the only character I empathized with was the lighthouse. Stedman creates a beautiful character out of the tower of light, and I did feel sorry for it, not only for what it has to endure for the length of this novel, but what I knew of its future and the future of its kind.

 

Despite the manipulation of this order of stories, it's a popular genre and it's no wonder the book has done as wonderfully as it has. I think Stedman shows talent, but to win me over she'll need to find a logical story and let it tell itself next time. Personally, seeing that her novel has spent the last year in Amazon's top 100 sellers, I don't think she's too worried about what I'm thinking.