The Light Between Oceans

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The Light Between Oceans (Photo- Simon & Schuster)When you’re stranded at home for a few days because your city is underwater, there’s nothing better than a good book. And with nothing but time on my hands this weekend, The Light Between Oceans was the perfect read.

This spring, I had to take a horrendous biology course as a prerequisite for the Bachelor of Education I’m starting in September (science courses, go figure, are not part of the requirements for a Bachelor of Journalism. I haven’t touched biology since high school and I would not describe it as a strong suit). June 20th was my final exam downtown, and by the time I got the C-train home around mid-day, the flood waters had made most of Calgary impassable.

What better time for a new book? When I got home, my mom presented me with a copy of The Light Between Oceans as a congratulatory gift for struggling my way through my biology course. And with my evenings free from studying the parts of a cell, and an unexpected day off due to flooding on Friday, I read. And read. And read.

The Light Between Oceans is a beautiful, complicated Australian novel about the moral dilemma faced by Tom Sherbourne, a lighthouse keeper and returned WWI solider when a baby and a dead man wash ashore in a boat on the remote island where he and his wife Isabel are stationed.

Tom, who keeps meticulous records, wants to alert the authorities immediately, but Isabel, who is grieving from a miscarriage and desperate to be a mother, wants to keep the infant and raise it as the couples’ own.

The result is a beautifully-woven, haunting story of the grey areas that can so often blur right and wrong. There are no easy answers for Isabel and Tom, and the novel is beautifully written.

I’m so glad I read this when I had some time to process it properly. It’s not a light bedtime read, but it is a brilliant novel that I would highly recommend.

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Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

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Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven (Photo: Hachette Book Group)When I recently had lunch with my friend Jason and he told me about his plans to travel to North Korea, it immediately reminded me of how much I loved this book, so I decided to read it again.

I first came across Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven at a budget bookstore in New Zealand right down the street from where my former employer’s Auckland office is located. During my last eight or so months in Australia, I made frequent overnight trips to Auckland for work, because I was managing teams of writers in Sydney as well as an expanding office in NZ. As a result, I spent many evenings on my own in this awesome serviced apartment (if you need a place to stay in the Auckland central business district, I wholeheartedly recommend this place) watching a lot of crazy NZ television shows and reading books, including this one.

This is the kind of gripping travel writing that I love – it’s tense and suspenseful with a well-paced plot, plenty of humour and the kind of encounters with really good people that you seem to have when you run into sticky travel situations. In the 1980s, Susan Gilman and her friend Claire decide that they need to go backpacking in China, which has only just opened its doors to tourists. Armed with a Lonely Planet guidebook and inspired mainly by a ‘Pancakes of Many Nations’ special at the IHOP, two white, suburban, middle-class girls get in way over their heads in communist China – where one of them quite literally begins to lose her mind.

Jason raised his eyebrows at the title (so did I, when I first saw it), but for the most part in this book, everybody keeps their clothes on. It’s a thrilling travel memoir – and a great tale of friendship, youth and adventure – that’s well worth a look.