The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by @HazelGaynor ~ #HistoricalFiction based on fact #TuesdayBookBlog

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.

Initially relations between Matilda and Harriet are strained. Harriet is caring in a brusque way, Matilda wants to know more about her, how they are related, but Harriet keeps her distance emotionally. Both stories are told beautifully and the narrative moves smoothly between the two timelines, unravelling the connections to Matilda’s past as she delves into her family history, revealing surprises along the way. I enjoyed the relationship that unfolded between Matilda and Harriet, and the development of both women.

Although Grace’s story is very familiar, I still had goosebumps while reading the rescue scenes. I also hadn’t realised the inclusion of Sarah Dawson was a fact. Ultimately it’s a story of love, loss, strength and determination which I found compelling—sad and uplifting at the same time.

Monument to Grace Darling in Bamburgh

Lighthouses hold an appeal and I always wondered what it would have been like to live in one. Hazel Gaynor has created a powerful and atmospheric picture. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is a beautifully crafted, emotional and vividly descriptive story with strong and memorable characters. 

Book links ~ Amazon UK | Amazon US 

About the Author

Hazel Gaynor is the acclaimed New York Times, USA Today and international bestselling author of five novels. Her debut, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, won the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award, and THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY was shortlisted for the 2016 Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. She was also selected as a WHSmith Fresh Talent title in 2015 for A MEMORY OF VIOLETS. Her novel THE COTTINGLEY SECRET was one of BookBub’s most anticipated books of summer 2017 and her co-written novel LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS is a finalist in the 2018 WFWA Star Awards. In 2018, Hazel will release her sixth historical novel, THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER, inspired by the true story of Victorian heroine, Grace Darling. Hazel’s books have been translated into eight languages and are published in 15 countries to date. She lives in Ireland with her husband and two children and is represented by Michelle Brower of Aevitas Creative, New York. For more information, visit where you can also sign up for her newsletter.

Author links ~ Website | Twitter | Facebook 

20 thoughts on “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by @HazelGaynor ~ #HistoricalFiction based on fact #TuesdayBookBlog

    1. It really is, Mairéad. Can’t believe I haven’t read this author before. I love Bamburgh and the surrounding area and it’s always a bonus when you know the place a novel is set 🙂


  1. I love historical fiction and lighthouse stories, so this one is a must read for me. I’ve already downloaded it. Thanks to your fabulous review, I’ll be reading it soon. 💕🤗💕

    Liked by 1 person

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