“The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter” is a historical fiction novel with themes of love and courage. The book switches back and forth between 1838, at the Longstone Lighthouse on Farne Island in Northumberland, England, and the lighthouse on Rose Island in Newport, Rhode Island in 1938.
In 1838, Grace Darling and her father, the Longstone lighthouse keeper, rescue the survivors of the Forfarshire shipwreck. Grace immediately becomes a heroine and is honored throughout England. Everyone wants to visit the lighthouse hoping to catch a glimpse of Grace. Artists are sent to paint her portrait, boats arrive daily and the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland present her with a gold medal from the Royal Humane Society. Grace does not like all of the attention and only wants things to return to normalcy.
As we read about Grace and her life in the lighthouse we also learn about Matilda Emmerson, who in 1938, is 19 and pregnant. She has been sent away in disgrace from her home in Ireland and is bound for America where she’ll live with her distant relative, Harriet Flaherty. Harriet is a recluse who is an assistant light keeper on Rose Island in Newport, Rhode Island.
Matilda begins reading an old book on lighthouses. In the book she finds a letter written to a woman named Sarah from Grace Darling. She also discovers a half finished portrait of Grace Darling. Intrigued by the portrait and curious as to why it was never finished, Matilda begins investigating and uncovers many secrets including that of her own birth.
Grace and Matilda’s lives are linked by history and tragedy. Grace lived during the Victorian Age and found fame harder to deal with than the hard physical labor of working the lighthouse. Although rebellious, Matilda arrives in Newport worried about what others think; she soon learns how to be strong and stand up for herself from living with Harriet and studying the life of Grace.
“The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter” is a moving book full of passion, bravery, sacrifice, love and loss. The strong women characters will have readers rooting for them. I couldn’t put this novel down and will definitely look for more books by Hazel Gaynor.