Book Reviews: The Light Between the Oceans & More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

The Light Between the Oceans by M. L. Stedman

Genre: Fiction

After four years at the front line in World War One, Tom Sherbourne returns physically in one piece, a rare accomplishment, but his heart is shattered. To seek peace and solace  while he rights his broken life, he accepts the job of a lighthouse keeper on a small uninhabited island called Janus Rock, off the coast of Janus Rock.

In the nearby town of Partageuse, his occasional temporary home away from the light house, he meets the jovial, cheeky and frank Isabel Graysmark. A long- distance courtship occurs, and they marry, with Isabel moving to Janus Rock with Tom. The loving couple indulges in a world of their own that is serene and self-sufficient, yet their happiness is incomplete. Isabel endures multiple miscarriages and a still-birth, while Tom helplessly struggles to comfort her.

One fateful day, a boat is washed ashore, carrying a dead man and a crying baby. Desperate for a little one of her own, Isabel claims the baby and begs Torn not to report the incident, lest the baby is taken to an orphanage. Tom battles against his conscience, buries the dead man, and becomes a loving father to the baby.

Little did the couple know that their profound kindness to baby Lucy would render devastation elsewhere outside their now blissful world.

Stedman’s novel is beautifully written, with ample use of descriptions that are simple yet compelling and easy to visualise. At times the prose reads like poetry; Stedman prefers meandering through subtleties over direct narratives. As such, full concentration is required from the reader to appreciate the story and it may require a couple of readings for full comprehension. However, the reading experience is a rewarding one as one marvels at the author’s approach.

The Light Between Oceans is a moving and haunting novel that inspires us to live the moment and treasure what we have. It is also an insightful take on the  lighthouse keeper, a now-obsolete profession that remains a mystery to many.

More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell

Genre: Humour

This book is the sequel to the highly acclaimed “Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops”. If you have not read it, it does not matter, as both are standalone books containing a delightful collection of hilarious or bizarre things bookstore managers hear from their customers. This powered-up version not only contains anecdotes from the author’s experiences, but also submissions from bookshops around the world.

Some gems extracted from the book, hot favourites among various book reviewers:

Customer: We’re having a book burning at our religious group tonight. I need all your books on witchcraft. Bookseller: …..
Customer: And we’re expecting a discount. We’re doing the world a favor by burning them, you know.

Customer: (Holding a copy of a Weight Watchers book in one hand, and The Hunger Games in the other) Which of these dieting books would you recommend most?

Customer: (pulls her Kindle out of her bag): Look at it! I dropped it in the bath!
Bookseller: If you did that with a book, you could just put it on the radiator and then flatten it out between two heavier books.
Customer (seriously): Do you think that would work for this, too?

Some of the quotes may seem far-fetched for sombre, embarrassment-fearing Singaporeans who would never have thought of half the ludicrousness in this book. However, assuming they are genuine experiences, the  book opens our eyes to how ignorant some people can be.

Not all documented encounters are with morons, fortunately. There are also witty quotes from cool people, and children who say the most innocent things that make you smile from the bottom of your heart.

This is one of those books that quickly put a smile back on your face after a hard day. One who works in the ser- vice industry would especially empathise with the poor booksellers who have to devise non-offensive means to fend off their queer customers.

– These book reviews first appeared in a lifestyle magazine