It’s Monday, so you know what that means…
This week, we’re continuing the historical fiction trend with The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, an intimate, beautifully written novel that spans a century to tell the story of two women with very different lives, bound together by lighthouses, storms, and a half-finished painting. Intrigued? Let’s get into it!
The year is 1838, the place is Northumberland, England. Grace Darling, resident superhero (more on that in a moment), has lived at the Longstone Lighthouse on Farne Islands for 22 years. During a furious storm, Grace and her father brave the elements to rescue the survivors of a nasty shipwreck near their lighthouse. When word of their daring heroics travels around, Grace is celebrated throughout England, becoming the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. (See, when I used superhero earlier, I literally meant superhero.) Unfortunately, though, all the fame isn’t for Grace – she just wants to live her quiet life. Besides, more importantly, she’s a little tied up right now – namely, she’s become close friends with a visiting artist named George. To quote the book cover because this line is just far too swoon-worthy, “Just as George Emmerson captures Grace with his brushes, she in turn captures his heart.”
Flash forward a century. The year is 1938, the place is Newport, Rhode Island. Matilda Emmerson (hint hint hint, pay attention to the last name, please), 19-years-old and pregnant, has been sent away from Ireland in disgrace. Where is she sent to stay, you ask? If you guessed a lighthouse, you would be correct! Sent to stay with Harriet, a reclusive relative and assistant lighthouse keeper, Matilda discovers a half-finished portrait and, in doing so, opens a window into her own family history. But, just like that chaotic weather over 100 years ago, a deadly hurricane is approaching, and two women living a century apart are about to be forever linked by the acts of love and courage that drive their lives.
If we go any further, we’re going to ruin things, so let us just say this: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is a beautifully written, skillfully artistic portrait of two women that is inspired by true events. Yes, that means real-life superheroes do, in fact, exist. Exquisitely crafted and tremendously researched, the beauty of Hazel Gaynor‘s The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter can be summarized in one sentence: “They call me a heroine, but I am not deserving of such accolades. I am just an ordinary young woman who did her duty.”