Tuesday, 26 February 2019

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor


"The writing is skilful, the flow of the narrative between the two eras very well done, and the detail of nineteenth-century life well-researched. "

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Family Drama
1838 Nineteenth century
Northumberland / Rhode Island

"1838: when a terrible storm blows up off the Northumberland coast, Grace Darling, the lighthouse keeper's daughter, knows there is little chance of survival for the passengers on the small ship battling the waves. But her actions set in motion an incredible feat of bravery that echoes down the century.

1938: when nineteen-year-old Matilda Emmerson sails across the Atlantic to New England, she faces an uncertain future. Staying with her reclusive relative, Harriet Flaherty, a lighthouse keeper on Rhode Island, Matilda discovers a discarded portrait that opens a window on to a secret that will change her life forever."

Ever since I was a little girl I have been fascinated by, and an admirer of, Grace Darling. I think we must have had a lesson about her in school for I have no idea how else, as a nine-year-old, I would have 'discovered' her. I therefore pounced on this novel with enthusiasm, and I was not wholly disappointed, although I admit that I was... a little.

Grace Darling, a lighthouse keeper's daughter from Northumberland. She is dedicated to the daily - and nightly - work of maintaining the lighthouse for it's guiding light is essential for the safety of all sailors and shipping off this rugged northern coast. In the morning of September 7th, 1838 she and her father battle against a storm rowing out to a nearby island to rescue survivors of a shipwreck. It is an act of bravery that causes Grace to remembered for her bravery and determination even as far forward in time as today.

For this particular novel, one-hundred years later, Matilda Emmerson, nineteen years old and pregnant, travels from Ireland to Rhode Island to stay with Harriet, a distant relative, who happens to be a lighthouse keeper. There, connected by an old portrait, the stories of Matilda, Harriet and Grace combine unfolding into their lives, their relationships, hopes and fears commitments and disappointments. 

The writing is skilful, the flow of the narrative between the two eras very well done, and the detail of nineteenth-century life well-researched. So why my slight disappointment? A personal thing, I think, many readers will thoroughly enjoy this novel (I did enjoy it!) but I was expecting a novel about Grace ... for all its enjoyability I would have been happily content with just Grace's fascinating story, without the additional present-day tale.

Personal preference aside, it's a good read. 

© Helen Hollick


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