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Our Intrepid Heroine

I'm a multitasking, knitting, cooking, voraciously-reading library worker who wants to spread her bibliomania as far as possible.

Currently reading

Ash and Silver: A Sanctuary Novel
Carol Berg
The Sleeping Partner
Madeleine E. Robins
China Mieville
The Light Between Oceans: A Novel - M.L. Stedman

Had my workplace not strongly encouraged that I read this, I would not have gotten past Chapter 3.


This is a character-driven story (or should be -- more on that in a minute), and the best character sketch of the husband takes place on a passenger boat to Australia, where he is headed to sign up as a lighthouse keeper.


A soldier announces his plans to climb in some woman's cabin at night to steal her underwear while she's still wearing it. Tom does not report this to anyone, but for some reason can't sleep. He goes out on deck, where he gets a vague feeling that something's off, walks around for a bit, and finds the soldier, drunk, in the woman's cabin, leering at her and being generally sexually aggressive. What timing! It's almost like he was part of the conversation where the guy announced he was going to sexually assault a woman.


Instead of calling the authorities on the boat, Tom snaps at the guy, demands his name and rank, and tells him to get lost. Then tells the woman (still pressed up against the wall because there were two strange men in her cabin, one of whom tried to assault her) not to report the guy, because he's a veteran and "has had a bad enough time of it."


This. This is our hero. This guy? Really?


This is presented as reasonable advice. And a reasonable suggestion. Because Tom is so reasonable. And level-headed. Because you know what reasonable, level-headed people do? They agree to pretend that babies who washed up onshore are their own kids, because it would be unreasonable to upset their wives by saying no.


Reasonable doesn't even look like a word anymore.


But that's who these characters are. Prince Charming up here, a woman who has become unhinged because babies, a  completely different woman (unhinged, babies), a grandmother who totally empathizes with unhinged, re: babies, a guy who is really rich and also concerned about his daughter (one of the unhinged: babies), and a baby. 


I had no sympathy for the protagonists. They did something they knew was wrong, justified it to themselves, and seemed surprised that their actions had consequences. The author felt that they were the heroes and victims of this story and treated them kindly as a result. I have no such compunctions. 


In addition to odd characterization, the setting was sort of amorphous. I got no feel for the setting -- none of the weather, no meaningful description of wildlife or people. The island was sort of developed, mainly by talking about its rather surprising lack of snakes and unapproachable nature, but it came off more as a literary device than an actual place. The author glossed over any real descriptions of the family's life on the island and panned over to other characters on the mainland (which also didn't feel like Australia, nor did it sound like it).


When a book tells me it is located at a specific location, situated during a specific period, I enjoy noticing some of the trappings of the time, maybe some linguistic differences. Instead, this book feels like the generic backdrop of a murder mystery set in London, not a small town in Australia. This is a big deal because the setting was supposed to strongly influence the characters' behavior.


Behavior which is irrational, self-justifying, and irritating. But really, I was done after that scene in the cabin. When the moral center of your book is okay with people committing crimes as long as they don't get caught, I am done. If the point was that he is a flawed hero, then the author still missed the heroic part.