From The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home comes a historical novel inspired by true events, and the extraordinary female lighthouse keepers of the past two hundred years.
“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.
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 9, 2018)
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 9, 2018)
Hazel Gaynor is a favorite author of mine when it comes to historical fiction. I've read several of her books (see my reviews for A Memory of Violets and The Girl From the Savoy) and I have The Cottingley Secret sitting near the top of my TBR stack. I love how she writes about strong women and multiple perspectives and time frames and how her characters and words touch me and carry me to whatever setting and periods she is writing about. I have long been fascinated by lighthouses too, so I immediately jumped on the tour for this one and was not disappointed.
In 1938 England Grace Darling has plans to stay with her parents at the lighthouse her father is the keeper for. She isn't looking for fame when she jumps into rescue the surviving passengers from a bad shipwreck near their island but female lighthouse keepers are rare in 1838 and she soon captures the attention and heart of England. I love that Grace Darling was a real person and that Gaynor talks about her research into Grace in the book's afterward. In her research she discovered Ida Lewis (called America's Grace Darling) who along with other American female lighthouse keepers, lead her to create the character of Harriet Flaherty, the relative who takes in pregnant Mathilda in 1938 Rhode Island. Although her 1938 characters are fictional, the hurricane that swept the area in 1938 was very real and plays a big role in the story. I found myself equally caught up in Grace and Mathilda's stories and characters and avidly going back and forth with Gaynor's narratives about each woman's life. Good historical novels inspire me to read more about the period and events and I found myself Googling Grace (check out this website about her, here) as well as the hurricane and Ida Lewis thanks to Gaynor's book.
Like Hazel Gaynor's other novels (and as in real life) there are both happier moments mixed in with sorrow and tragedy in The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter. I found the book hard to put down and Grace and Mathilda, along with Harriet and the other characters in their worlds, will stay with me. If you enjoy historical novels with courageous women and their relationships and lives, pour yourself a cup of tea or a hot toddy and curl up with this one.
Author Notes: Hazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel, The Girl from the Savoy, was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. In 2017, she has published The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris. Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages. Hazel lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.
Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Although food was not a huge part of the book, there was a presence. Mentions included fresh baked bread--kneading and baking and often served with butter or cheese for meals, plaice (fish), eggs, a whiskey hot toddy, hot broth with brandy added, Humbugs (a British boiled hard candy), reviving tonics, a bowl of clam chowder, a big breakfast of coffee, tea , toast with butter, jam and marmalade, grits, and eggs both soft-boiled and hard, dried peas, barley and wheat and a haunch of ham, lobster and crab pots, sweetened ice tea, clams and fresh lobster, fresh kippers, crab, fish, salt cod, tea and cake bacon rind, and apple pie.
For my book-inspired dish I decided to combine the oft-mentioned bread and cheese of 1838 Northumberland, England with the bowl of clam chowder and soft-boiled eggs from 1938 Newport, Rhode Island into a quick weeknight dinner for a very busy week. I relied on deli-bought clam chowder--adding a can of extra chopped clams, butter, cracked black pepper and fresh thyme to pump up the flavor. I then toasted a slice of hearty multi-grain seeded bread and melted grated cheddar cheese on top of it under the broiler, then smashed a soft boiled egg over the hot melted cheese and sprinkled salt, more cracked black pepper and a bit more of the thyme on it, Quick to put together, very simple and delicious and although not traditional (see my clam chowder notes below), I think it is a dinner that captures the mood of the book.
As clam chowder's go, likely the one that Harriet serves to Matilda on her first day would have been a clear clam chowder (try this version from the New York Times) rather than the creamy version Boston/New England-style or the tomato-based soup favored in New York, but needs must for a crazy weeknight and creamy is what they serve at my grocery store deli counter. I did thin it down slightly with the juice from the can of clams I added. There was no description of how the soft-boiled eggs were served in the book--other than with toast, but if you like a runny yolk (I boiled my eggs about 5 minutes), I can't think of a more tasty way to enjoy it than over a slice of cheese toast.
Notes/Results: This dinner made me very happy. With facilitating two more classes this week for the leaders of my company and a Halloween than began with reading to first graders with my work group and helping to host work costume and October birthday events, I am tuckered out. My dinner, like this book, is comfort food to curl up with and good for the soul. I plan to make my own Rhode Island clam chowder soon and the soft-boiled egg on cheese toast often.
I'm linking this soup and open-faced sandwich combo up at Souper Sundays here at Kahakai Kitchen where each week we share soup, salad and sandwich recipes from the Blogosphere. Here is the link to this week's post.
I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.