Book Title and Author: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor
Publication Date and Publisher: October 9, 2018 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 416 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: October 6, 2018 (e-arc)
“They call me a heroine, but I am not deserving of such accolades. I am just an ordinary young woman who did her duty.”
1838: Northumberland, England. Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands has been Grace Darling’s home for all of her twenty-two years. When she and her father rescue shipwreck survivors in a furious storm, Grace becomes celebrated throughout England, the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. But far more precious than her unsought fame is the friendship that develops between Grace and a visiting artist. Just as George Emmerson captures Grace with his brushes, she, in turn, captures his heart.
1938: Newport, Rhode Island. Nineteen-years-old and pregnant, Matilda Emmerson has been sent away from Ireland in disgrace. She is to stay with Harriet, a reclusive relative, and assistant lighthouse keeper, until her baby is born. A discarded, half-finished portrait opens a window into Matilda’s family history. As a deadly hurricane approaches, two women, living a century apart, will be linked forever by their instinctive acts of courage and love.
When I picked up The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, I expected to enjoy it since I love Hazel Gaynor’s writing but what I didn’t expect was to feel so many emotions while reading the book or to finish the book a sobbing mess of tears!
Gaynor’s novel is inspired by the true story of Grace Darling, a lighthouse keeper’s daughter and is an extraordinary novel that is just gorgeously written and heartwrenching. Gaynor masterfully weaves the story of Grace in 1838 with the story of Matilda Emmerson in 1938, and the story that unfolds is one of strong, brave, inspiring women, yet it’s also a story of heartache, unbearable loss, and tragedy.
Grace loves her life on Farne Islands assisting her father, the lighthouse keeper, with the care of Longstone Lighthouse. The island, the coast of Northumberland, and especially the lighthouse are her everything. Helping her father keep the lighthouse lit and watching to keep ship’s safely away from the rocky coast is not only her duty but her greatest love…that is until she meets a handsome young artist named George Emmerson who often makes her mind wander from thoughts of the lighthouse to him although she is resolved to forget him and is sure she’ll never see him again.
A storm of magnificent proportions changes Grace’s life. As it rages and blows around the lighthouse, Grace spots a shipwreck and knows she and her father have to save the survivors before they lose their lives in the raging storm condition. It’s a daring rescue that her father is unwilling to make but Grace is adamant. The rescue is extremely difficult and dangerous, but Grace is brave and determined to hold the boat steady by herself as her father brings the survivors aboard, including one woman, Sarah Dawson, who just happens to be George’s sister.
While Grace sees the rescue of the survivors of the Forfarshire as her duty and not an act of bravery, her act of rescue brings her unexpected and unwanted fame. She begins receiving letters, marriage proposals, money, people begin making trips to the island to look at her, her portrait is painted, and more. It’s hard to believe a mere woman is capable of such exceptional bravery and heroism, so everyone must see her and speculate about this young lady! For Grace, it’s almost more than she can bear. The only joyful thing that happens is the friendship she develops with Sarah and sees George again, who comes to paint her portrait. Their love story almost undid me!
A century later, Matilda, the great-granddaughter of Sarah Dawson, is a young girl of nineteen from East Cork, Ireland. She’s pregnant and in disgrace with her parents, especially with her cold, distant, and unfeeling mother who has never given Matilda any affection or love. She’s being sent to Rhode Island to live with Harriet Flaherty, an unknown, reclusive, and apparently also disgraced relative, who is an assistant lighthouse keeper until her baby is born. Only then can she return home, without her child, as if nothing ever happened.
Matilda finds Harriet aloof but always watchful, caring, and anticipating what Matilda might need. Matilda finds herself wanting to know more about her distant relative the more time they spend together, so Matilda spends much of her time with Harriet at the lighthouse not only developing a passion and connection to the lighthouse like Grace and Harriet before her but also learning about Harriet and developing an odd sort of friendship that deepens as time passes.
Matilda also begins researching her family history after uncovering documents that have been in the family for generations. She soon discovers the friendship between her great-grandmother and Grace Darling, and the story of Grace’s daring rescue. She also finds a half-finished painting of a woman she believes to be of Grace drawn by George. While Matilda discovers the story of Grace’s bravery and how it connects to her own family and uncovers a forgotten love story, she also discovers exactly who she is and decides the kind of woman she wants to be–not the one her mother demands of her. Bravery is a parallel theme running in all the women’s lives in this book…Grace, Sarah, Harriet, and Matilda.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is a story that both inspired me because of the determination, courage, and boldness of these women who reminded me that women can achieve anything they put their minds to and it also broke my heart in tiny pieces. I warn you now to have tissues ready when reading this book! Gaynor has written a truly magnificent novel that I highly recommend! It’s truly wonderful, heartbreaking, and enthralling.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter publishes on October 9, 2018, so be sure to pick up a copy–and tissues!
~This was a Traveling Sister’s read, and we all agreed that it was a perfect read! I think we all cried and just loved it so much. Read their review here…!~
**Thank you Edelweiss and William Morrow for an ARC copy to read and review in exchange for my fair and honest review.**