The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 27 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

This book takes p,place between 1938 & 1838.

1838: Grace's father is a lighthouse keeper but Grace knows the job just as well as her father does. Sarah Dawson is just 22 years old,. She is sailing to Scotland with her two young children. She recently lost a  a y, then her husband.  As the ship gets near it's destination, a storm hits. The ship is destroyed  and Sarah and her children end up in the sea. Grace and her father set out in a rowing  boat,  but  by the time they got to Sarah, the children have died. 

1938: Matilda Emmerson is leaving Ireland in disgrace. She is travelling with her companion to New York. She is pregnant and has to stay with Harriet, a reclusive lighthouse keeper until the  baby is born. The child was to be put up for adoption. While at the lighthouse, Matilda sorts through an old chest. She learns all about Grace Darling and the connection between them.

This story is based on the story of Grace Darling, who was a heroine of her time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters are endearing. The story skips back and forth between the two timelines. They both tied together beautifully at the end. The story is well written and I was drawn in from the first few pages. A story of both joy and sorrow. I do recommend this book. 

I would like to thank Netgalley,  HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction and the author Hazel Gaynor for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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~ I was given a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review, I'm not associated with the author or publisher in any way and the views expressed are completely unbiased and entirely my own. ~

My rating: 3*

'The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter' by Hazel Gaynor is a well-written historical fiction told via dual timelines. 
It was a fast, easy read since the interwoven tales of these womens lives were very compelling. While overall an enjoyable read, I've settled on a three star rating because for me this novel suffered regarding focus in terms of it's characters. As well as Grace and Matilda, who's timelines we follow, other characters from within each timeline are also given a POV which to me wasn't really necessary. They are essentially secondary characters and the result was that the story was spread a little thin at times and was therefore less impactful than it should have been given how solid the actual writing is and how interesting the lives of the characters are.

~ Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this title ~
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With thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the arc, which I have enjoyed reading.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor was a historical novel based on the story of Grace Darling in 1838 and another young woman’s story of becoming a lighthouse keeper in 1938. Both women’s fictional stories were fascinating and encapsulated the times in which they lived vividly. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book which was fascinating and captured the lives of woman in those eras.
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A brilliant book. Iam amazed how this author manages to bring the characters to life. 
This is a powerful beautifully written novel full of emotion 
I particularly enjoyed this book as it is based in the area where I grew up as a child
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I really enjoyed this book. Part history and part romance. I knew of Grace Darling but not the 'hype' around her after her heroic deeds. It shows that the world of journalism has not really changed! The information about light houses has permeated too.
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Being from the North East of England, Grace Darling is something of a local heroine, but although I remember hearing her story at school, I couldn’t really have told you very much about her. Hazel Gaynor is an author I’ve been interested in reading for a while and I already have one of her previous books, The Cottingley Secret, on the TBR, but when I saw that her latest book, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, was about Grace Darling I thought it might be a better one for me to start with.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is divided between two different time periods, but unlike most dual timeline novels where one storyline is set in the past and the other in the present, both periods in this book are historical. One thread begins in 1838 and introduces us to Grace, a young woman whose father runs the lighthouse on Longstone Island, one of the Farne Islands just off the coast of Northumberland. The family live with him at the lighthouse and although it’s an isolated, unconventional lifestyle, Grace loves it and can’t imagine living anywhere else. One night, she helps her father with a rescue when a paddle steamer, the Forfarshire, gets into trouble during a storm and is wrecked on the rocks. News of Grace’s bravery quickly reaches the public and suddenly she finds herself the centre of attention, but all she wants is to continue living a quiet, simple life in her beloved lighthouse…how will she cope with her unexpected fame?

The other storyline is set in America in 1938 and follows Matilda, a young Irish woman who has been sent away from home in disgrace after becoming pregnant. Matilda is staying with an older relative, Harriet, who happens to be a lighthouse keeper in Newport, Rhode Island. At first she finds Harriet unwelcoming and difficult to talk to, but as she gets to know her better she starts to understand what has made Harriet the person she is.

I was interested in both storylines, but although it was the promise of learning more about Grace Darling that drew me to this book, I think I preferred reading about Matilda. To be honest, I didn’t feel that there was much difference between the narrative voices of Grace and Matilda, especially considering that they were living in different centuries, but of the two I felt closer to Matilda and more emotionally invested in her story. I wanted to understand the nature of her relationship with Harriet and I enjoyed watching that aspect of the story unfold, as well as discovering the connections between Matilda and Grace. Grace’s chapters deal mostly with the events of the sea rescue and the unwanted, unlooked for fame she experiences in the aftermath, but the author also imagines a romance for her, which feels believable and is also quite moving and poignant.

There was some added interest for me in that I was familiar with so many of the places which form the setting for Grace’s story, including North Sunderland, Seahouses, Alnwick and Bamburgh. The Matilda sections are more fictional, but do also incorporate some real places and events such as the New England Hurricane of 1938. Although there were one or two small things that stopped me from enjoying this book as much as I would have liked to – particularly the use of present tense, which I almost always find annoying – overall I thought this was a good, interesting read. I’m looking forward to reading more by Hazel Gaynor, starting with The Cottingley Secret.
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I really liked this novel it is a mixture of fact and fiction mostly set in Northumberland. It was lovely to be able to picture the places mentioned in the Grace Darling parts of the story.
It is a classic two time frame story set in 19th century Northumberland and 20th century America. It follows the life of Grace Darling after her famous sea rescue of survivors of the shipwreck of the ship the Forfarshire and the new life of pregnant Mathilda who is shipped off to America to have her baby so as not to bring shame on her family and the links down the ages of the two girls. Perfect for fans of Kirsty Ferry and Kathryn Hughes.
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An absolutely beautiful book by Hazel Gaynor. I loved it from start to finish and read it one sitting! I loved how it was inspired by a real heroine. Looking forward to reading more from the author in the future.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC
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I saw this book everywhere when it was first released. I saw rave reviews and my interest was piqued. I do read a lot of historical fiction and this one seemed like something I would enjoy.

The best part of the book, something I definitely need to mention up front is the writing. The author has the ability to weave words in such a way that the story seems very deep and colourful. The emotions are also very vivid. That said, I felt like there were too many narratives which had me torn with my loyalty. We have Grace and Sarah in the past: 1838 and we have Matilda and Harriet in the present. We also have George (Sarah's brother) with his own voice in the past timeline. All of these people are so well written, with their own grievances, joys, and sorrows that it became a little hard for me to decide on whom to shower my maximum attention on. 

In the current timeline of 1938 we have Matilda travelling to USA to have her baby in secret. She learns a lot through the entire journey, another thing she learns is that her assessment of people may not always be the right one. She is to live with a distant relative, Harriet. Harry is a lighthouse Keeper and this seems to be the common vein running through the entire book because the past storyline, in 1838 focuses on a real woman Light Keeper named Grace. Grace is torn between her love for her place with the lighthouse and the way futures are dictated by norms that have no place for her emotions. One courageous act turns her life upside down. There is a lot packed into the tale, multiple families, multiple losses and a lot of hopes. If the writing was not as good as it was I might not have enjoyed unpacking it all.

I would recommend this to readers of the historical fiction genre because we can glean a lot about the social behaviours of the time as well as how people led their daily lives.
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Salty air, waves crashing against the rocks, the majestic light showing the way, who doesn't enjoy being by the sea?
This is a lovely story, written at a calm pace. Meet the women who have worked the lighthouse for decades.
Through gentle breezes and devastating storms we learn of their strength and courage as it's being tested by the elements. There is laughter and hurt, sea and shells and a surprise event that arrives in waves.
Even through some harsh tides, this is a feel good novel of friendship, care and compassion, set in a breathtaking environment. A wonderful read.

Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollins for the ARC.
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I really enjoyed this book!

It is a very well researched and elegantly written story inspired by true events. The characters are well drawn and the writing sublime.

This is the first book I have read by Hazel Gaynor but it definitely won't be the last.

 I highly recommend this book for lovers of historical fiction.
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This was a solid 3 star read for me. There is nothing earth shattering about the narrative technique in fact I think the weaving of 2 separate timelines to tell 2 separate but related stories has become commonplace nowadays, that said I liked the characters in both timelines and the way their shared history is weaved together through family heirlooms.

The main focus of this story is a real life lighthouse keeper's daughter called Grace Darling who rose to fame in 1838 when she and her father rescued shipwrecked survivors during a fierce storm, the fact that she was a woman lead to huge public interest in the story and for a while Grace became the centre of her own storm of fame. Gaynor uses this dramatic woman and the stories surrounding the real life rescue to create her fictional family.

Gaynor successfully weaves the real life facts of Grace's life into her narrative and creates a warm and sympathetic character that the reader can believe in. Grace's family and friends also feel like real people and the detail with which lighthouse life is described almost made me long for my own island with only family and a Kindle for company. Then reality hit and I thought great in summer not so good in winter.

For me Grace's story was the real draw of the book the secondary storyline felt like it had been added to give some extra colour and personally I don't think this extra colour was required. While I don't feel this secondary narrative was necessary to the book it did still manage to tug at my heartstrings and it did allow the introduction of other historical female lighthouse keepers to show that while Grace may be one of the most famous there were other women doing the same thing in other places.

Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, who has an interest in lighthouses and anyone who enjoys a good family saga, just have the tissues handy.
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In 1838 a dreadful storm occurs on the Northumberland coast. The paddle steamer Forfarshire fell victim to the storm and Grace Darling and her Lighthouse Keeper father battled the elements and rescued the survivors. Grace becomes celebrated throughout all of England and farther afield. Her bravery also brings her closer to George, whose sister is one of the survivor, an artist who captures both her character and her heart.In 1938 Matilda Emmerson is sent to America to stay with her relative, Lighthouse Keeper, Harriet Flaherty. Matilda discovers a portrait that links to her past and unearths secrets that have a profound effect on her future.I loved this book and couldn't put it down. I look forward to reading much more from Hazel Gaynor. I am, without question, a fan of her work.
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This is an epic novel spanning an entire century and inspired by the courage of Grace Darling and one of those she saved from the wreck of the Forfarshire in 1838, Sarah Dawson. In 1938, Matilda is also drawing on her courage and crossing the Atlantic to face the unknown staying with her distant relative Harriet Flaherty. Harriet is also a lighthouse keeper on Rhode Island and Matilda will find she is linked to all the women in more ways than she could imagine.

I have a real fascination for lighthouses which always seem to be such romantic places. I wonder how did people survive the solitary, repetitive life, particularly those stationed in remote islands. They must have been very disciplined to stop themselves from going mad. Hazel Gaynor describes the way of living in a lighthouse so well from the physical layout, to the dedication of the keepers and their families and the necessary routines to keep the lights functioning.

But is it the women who are at the centre of this story. Four courageous women who are all brave in their own individual ways. Lighthouses are what links them all, beacons of light and hope in the darkness. Lighthouses can stand alone and strong, battling everything thrown at them and so do these women. I loved this book which showed the strength and resilience of the four women. Hazel Gaynor has written a superb book shining a light on the compelling story of Grace Darling in a new way and linking the women in unexpected way. I found this such a compelling read, the best kind of historical fiction. A wonderfully crafted story of love and loss, courage and hope.

“In the end, the only person we can truly rely on is ourselves.”
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I was given a copy of The Lighthouse Keepers daughter by Hazel Gaynor in exchange for an honest review. 
The book is set in the 1830's and the 1930's. It is based around true events of Grace Darling who lived in a lighthouse with her family and rescued passengers from a shipwreck during a storm. Matilda is sent to a lighthouse to stay with a relative and finds the picture of Grace Darling and begins to find out more about the heroine and how they were connected.
This book is well written and explains about Grace and her family and how the cared for the lighthouse. I liked the characters and enjoyed the mystery within the book.
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This beautiful compelling book centres around two main characters and timelines. I loved how I got a glimpse of one character and their life before being transported to the other. The authors gift of connecting each timeline was wonderful, the shared history, lighthouses, necklace and a painting were fantastic and in the final chapters the way they came together was like finding the missing pieces of my favourite jigsaw puzzle. 

1838 - Grace Darling is the daughter of the keeper of Longstone Lighthouse in Northumberland. During a horrific storm along with her father rescue survivors from the Forfarshires disaster. Among the survivors is Sarah Dawson who Is travelling to visit her brother George who Grace has previously met and been attracted to.  Grace is strong woman who puts her duty before her heart. She is instantly idolised for her heroism but her love for the peaceful lighthouse life means she struggles with the unwanted attention . 

1938- Matilda is unmarried 19 years old and pregnant. As this is considered shameful in her native Ireland she has been sent to stay with a family relative in Rhode Island , America. Her discovery of a painting sets her on the path to uncover family history and secrets which have been hidden. 

I loved the descriptions of lighthouse life and the struggles encountered by our ancestors compared to our lives today. I had heard of Grace Darling but having read this book her name is definitely etched in my heart. Many things have changed from the timelines in this book but loss, friendship, family, loyalty. Separation, and finding your place in life remains relative and unchanged through generations . 

This book will stay with me for a long time. It’s enchanting storyline and fantastic characters have left me spellbound. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measures it should definitely be on your TBR list. I live near a lighthouse and I will now think of the strong woman in this book when I see it.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for my chance to read this breathtaking novel.


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If I asked you who Grace Darling was you would probably be able to give me a sketchy idea of lifeboats, saving people and lighthouses. That was extent of my knowledge without a book or google to hand to fill in the details.

This book whilst fictionalising the story of Grace did something else for me. It filled in huge gaps in my knowledge of the event, of the way lighthouses work, the life that was led by these families and more importantly where women stood in the hierarchy of such things.

1938, Rhode Island,America.  Matilda Emmerson has been sent to stay with a distant relative, she has disgraced her good family by becoming pregnant out of wedlock. The distant relative happens to be a lighthouse keeper and there Matilda starts to come to terms with her subsequent pregnancy and starts to learn a lot about her past. Even down to why she was called Matilda.

100 years previous and Grace Darling spots the Forfarshire in trouble and assists her father in the rescue of some survivors. In the days before social media and instant celebrity, the speed in which everyone knew about Grace is staggering for its time. Boat tours went past the lighthouse in calmer weather to get a glimpse of her and people wanted literally a piece of her. Locks of hairs, portraits it seemed these were the 'selfies' of the day. Grace is very humble about what she has done and sees no reason for the attention which is brought to herself, her family and the lighthouse. She remembers that lives were lost and the families that were destroyed.

A book with strong female characters, some of them initially not that likeable until you start to realise the circumstances in which they are surviving. It is not only other people's actions and emotions that can affect you. Your surroundings, the landscape can have detrimental effect to; the sea can tear them apart, keep them separate, can show you the truth and it can shape your life forever.

If you like historical fiction and want something different, then this is certainly the book for you.

A worthy and worthwhile read.
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A sweeping, beautiful story that kept me hooked all along,  My first by this author and not my last.
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I was particularly interested about this book because it is partly about Grace Darling, a real person who, according to family history, is my distant relation.

The book switches between two times.
In 1838 Grace is the daughter of the keeper of the Longstone lighthouse, and becomes a national hero, when she and her father row out in a great storm and rescue the survivors of a ship, the Forfarshire, which had sunk.
Very little is known of her short life after this, and the story in the book is based on reports of the time, and an attempt to understand how an independent-minded Victorian woman coped with fame, and what it did to her. There was also a romantic interest introduced.

In 1938 Matilda Emmerson, pregnant, is sent from Ireland to a distant cousin, Harriet Flaherty who is a lighthouse keeper in Rhode Island. 
As Matilda and Harriet find a way to understand each other, family secrets are uncovered, and the connection to events in 1838 becomes clearer, as well as the sadness that lies at the centre of Harriet’s life.

I enjoyed the book, and the way the connections emerged.
The developing relationship between Matilda and Harriet was beautifully described, and the similarities of life in a lighthouse in the 1800s and 1900s were brought to life.
What I found uncomfortable were some elements of Grace’s story, which, as the author says, was pure conjecture.
 I would have enjoyed it more if all the characters were fictional.

Thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins for the opportunity to read this book.
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What a stunning beautiful read. The enchantment of the lighthouse, richly described and a full love story. Fully recommend
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