Author: Hazel Gaynor
Published: September 2018 by Harper Collins
Category: Historical Fiction, Book Review
“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: when a terrible storm blows up off the Northumberland coast, Grace Darling, the lighthouse-keeper’s daughter, knows there is little chance of survival for the passengers on the small ship battling the waves.
1938: when nineteen-year-old Matilda Emmerson sails across the Atlantic to New England, she faces an uncertain future.
I love books that mix fact with fiction, giving a real authenticity to the story. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter incorporates the true story of Grace Darling.
Grace’s father was the lighthouse keeper at Longstone on the Farne Islands, off the Northumbrian coast. Twenty two year old Grace loved nothing better than helping her father, taking her turn on watch and making sure the lamps stayed lit through the night.
From the first time I’d climbed the spiraling lighthouse steps at the age of seven, it was here, at the very top of the tower, where I loved to be most of all, the clouds almost within touching distance, the strong eighty-foot tower below keeping us safe.
Grace’s ordered life changed irrevocably on the 7th September, 1838 with the onset of a horrific storm which battered the north east coast. As the storm built in intensity Grace took her turn on overnight watch, scanning the sea for any sign of trouble. To her horror, as the sky lightened, she saw the outline of a ship’s mast and survivors of the wrecked ship on Harker’s Rock. She knew her father couldn’t attempt the rescue himself as the storm still raged, but she believed they could manage together and persuaded her father they must try.
Grace’s courage and determination in the face of impossible odds helped save nine lives, including that of widowed Sarah Dawson, the sister of George Emmerson, an artist who Grace is attracted to. The rescue of the survivors from the SS Forfarshire brought Grace to the attention of the public and her fame spread far and wide, much to her dismay.
A century later in May 1938, Matilda Emmerson, the great great granddaughter of Sarah Dawson, leaves Cobh, Ireland bound for New York. Unmarried and pregnant, her austere mother, only concerned with appearances, is sending her to live with an unknown relative.
The doctor tells me I am four months gone. The remaining five, I am to spend with a reclusive relative, Harriet Flaherty, who keeps a lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island. The perfect hiding place for a girl in my condition; a convenient solution to the problem of the local politician’s daughter who finds herself unmarried and pregnant.