Simon and Schuster did well to win author M.L. Stedman’s work through auction. What Stedman offers is a beautiful, natural talent. Her writing is capable of rich narrative detail and heart-wrenching emotion. Unfortunately, what transpires in The Light between Oceans falters in over-extended plot choices (editing, perhaps) that halt the pace of the book, making it difficult to invest in the pages leading to the end.
In the beginning, the novel’s complex pieces are set in place, allowing them to progress over rich texture. Several times I found myself highlighting passages for their sheer beauty. As is prone to any beginning writer, there were overly wordy sentences, relied upon cliché, or stumbling in stiff dialogue, but these are few, leaving an overall magnificent writing.
The problem comes as the plot unfolds, where the tightness and compelling nature of the story fade away. Readers are reminded of events that already transpired, shifts in time take place, and perspectives change. What cripples the entirety of the story—what I feel had to be an editing decision—is a halt in the plot. Stedman did well to build up the conflict within her characters and then the reader is removed from both character and conflict. When Stedman returns to her main characters, she struggles to return to the climatic rise of what she worked so hard to build in the first place. Much of what is told in the middle of the book can easily be removed to sharpen this story. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t make a sellable novel; Simon and Schuster would have had something too short in length to run up the Times’s Bestseller List.
The brilliance that shines in the beginning returns for the final few chapters. Stedman adds in a few more spicy and emotional moments, which have left many reviewers in tears. But for those people that can’t suspend their belief over a fifty page pause, what remains is a final crisp note on what could have been a momentous overture.