Posts Tagged ‘great books read’

Two Memorable Books

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

The Light Between OceansI recently enjoyed reading the two following books for the book discussion group I belong to.  Both are by Australian authors, and both of were long listed for this year’s Miles Franklin Award, but neither made the short list.  However, that doesn’t diminish their stature, and both relate to the impact of WorldWar I on our newly independent nation.  Although ‘independent’, Australia was still part of The British Empire, and as such rushed to support the allied war effort by supplying troops representing a large percentage of our young men.  That war was brutal leading to people feeling it must be the war to end wars.  It didn’t of course.

The Light Between Oceans    by
 Through the central character Tom, this interesting story provides a sensitive look at how WWI affected men who returned home ‘unscathed’ , that is, appearing to be of sound limb perhaps, but very emotionally disturbed by their war experiences.  Tom’s insight into his own state of mind leads him to expect to take a long time to heal. Many returning soldiers had little understanding of this and found little true understanding among people around them of how war scars psyches as well as bodies.
Quoting from the blurb on GoodReads:  “After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them”.
Lucy’s natural mother, still lives in the small coastal town where Isabel grew up, from which the annual supply boat to the lighthouse is based, from where the boat with baby and father aboard set out, and she has never accepted that her daughter could be, indeed most likely is, dead.  Gradually, and its complicated (but at no time too complicated to follow) she learns that her husband died but that the baby was rescued.  As the story unfolds further we learn a lot about her life and how the father and baby came to be adrift at sea in a boat, and the incedible luck that the boat washed up on the rock/island it did.  The lives of all people surviving this strange but interesting set of events are set totally upside down, at times incredibly tragically, however the whole saga ends with a note of hope.  Like a richly woven multicoloured brocade – this book is enjoyable on so many levels, including vignettes of 1920’s Australian social values, the role of isolation and communication in our nation building era, and fascinating accounts of the now vanished way of life of the lighthouse keepers around our coasts, and so much more.   This is a fantastic first novel. and Margot Stedman’s next work will be eagerly awaited by many.

We also recently discussed Tom Kenneally’s  book, The Daughters of Mars which I thoroughly enjoyed. as did most others in the group.  It’s an intriguing story of fiction based on actual accounts in letters and wartime diaries of several Australian soldiers and nurses nurses involved in Egypt, Greece, France and UK

Quoting again from GoodReads’ blurb:     “From the acclaimed author of Schindler’s List, the epic, unforgettable story of two sisters from Australia, both trained nurses, whose lives are transformed by the cataclysm of the first World War. In 1915, two spirited Australian sisters join the war effort as nurses, escaping the confines of their father’s farm and carrying a guilty secret with them. Used to tending the sick as they are, nothing could have prepared them for what they confront, first near Gallipoli, then on the Western Front.  Yet amid the carnage, Naomi and Sally Durance become the friends they never were at home and find themselves courageous in the face of extreme danger, as well as the hostility they encounter from some on their own side. There is great bravery, humor, and compassion, too, and the inspiring example of the remarkable women they serve alongside. In France, where Naomi nurses in a hospital set up by the eccentric Lady Tarlton while Sally works in a casualty clearing station, each meets an exceptional man: the kind of men for whom they might give up some of their precious independence—if only they all survive.”I’m quite a Tom Kenneally fan from way back and this was one of his best.
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