Format: audiobook via library (narrated by Noah Taylor for Simon & Schuster Audio)
From 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."
This is a book on many, many 'best of 2012' lists, and for good reason. I was instantly plunged into Stedman's world. I think I could navigate my way from the harbor to Isabel's house, and happily while away my days on Janus Rock, tending the light. It's so very vivid, and appealing. No wonder baby Lucy has such a happy toddler-hood with Tom and Isabel. Of course, if I didn't connect with them so, I would probably not have spent most of the second half of the book in tears, which was hell on my sinuses, but worth it.
Love, parenthood, loss, regrets, duty to country, duty to God, duty to fellow-man. Tenderness and sense of self, sacrifice. It all swirls throughout this novel, and it all feels so very real, so natural. I second-guess them when they're second-guessing themselves, without any hint of authorial manipulation. It just is, and therefore, like life, it just is heartbreaking.
Noah Taylor has a knack for voices, but not one for narration. His non-dialogue reading just ate the words too much, beyond what was natural for his Australian accent. (My Australian pal is way easier to understand, so I know it's possible.) (Hi, M! Love ya!) I was (obviously) so absorbed by this book, and wish I'd not been pulled out of it by the narration. Stick to the non-audio versions, but, y'all, read this.