The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

Vietnamese title: Ánh Đèn Giữa Hai Đại Dương

English to Vietnamese. Translated 2014, first printed 2016. Tre Publishing.

I said yes to Light because it is very different from Galbraith. I believe it is healthy for a fiction translator to do different styles and voices. 

On the whole, I am quite pleased with the accents of the characters and the overall period tone in Light. For some reason I always default posh English accents to Northern Vietnamese (‘54 Northern to be precise) and less posh ones to Southern or South West. (Scottish should be Northern Central, probably Bình-Trị-Thiên but that’s the story of another book.)

Light has a lot on the operation of an old-school light house, prism and lens etc.… and then quite a bit on Australian flora and fauna, which was so much fun to do. For example, towards the end of the book, Hannah “lay down on her belly in the grass”[…]”half aware of the sour sops under her fingers”.

If you are from South East Asia, you will know that soursop is the other name of custard apple, or “mãng cầu” or “na” in Việt Nam. It is quite a big tree with spiky ugly fruits. Lying on the grass and touching the soursop at the same time suggests a rather flexible posture if not a very uncomfortable sensation. I emailed a Kiwi friend for help to no avail. Finally, I ransacked Wikipedia (again). Turned out “soursop” is one of the many names of Oxalis pes-capraealso known as goat’s-foot. Basically a buttercup type-thing. So I settled for hoa chân dê, literally “goat’s-foot flower”.

Last but not least, my translation of this book made my mum cry (in a good way). I’m glad I did it just for that.

Click here for extracts.*

*Please note that these are not posted in the same order of appearing in the book.