Reading Matters

Bit of light on ‘Light Between’ author M.L. Stedman

OK. I know if you examine the movie, “The Light Between Oceans” for logic, “improbabilities interrupt the flow,” as the Observer’s Larry Toppman pointed out. And the New York Times reviewer may have a point that the movie begins to lose its majesty when the dinghy appears on shore and “the pounding surf turns into soapsuds and the brine into tears.”

Fine. I get it. But I loved the movie anyway, and loving it made me curious about M.L. Stedman, the author of the novel from which the movie was made.

In a 2012 interview with Goodreads, Stedman said that she writes “very instinctively, letting a picture or phrase or voice come into my mind and just following it.” In this story, “I closed my eyes and saw a lighthouse, then gradually a woman, and I knew it was a long time ago, on an island off Western Australia. Then a man appeared – the lightkeeper. As I wrote, a boat washed up, with a dead body and a crying baby, so I had to keep writing to see what happened.”

Stedman is a native Australian, by the way, who now lives in London and writes full time. She wrote “TLBO” “on my sofa, in the British Library, in a cottage by the beach in Western Australia, on Hampstead Heath, and anywhere else that felt right.” She said her favorite authors include Graham Greene, Cormac McCarthy, Marilynne Robinson and Anne Michaels.

She named, too, the writers she said know what makes people tick: Dickens, Eliot and Salinger.

And, getting to the heart of her novel, Goodreads asked if she feels that being moral is more important than being happy?

Her answer: “I wonder if anyone feels completely happy if they’re going against their own personal sense of right and wrong?”

Stedman’s first name is Margot – I had to search to find that – and she has a law degree.

And P.S., I’m seeing the movie again on Thursday.