The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

About the Book

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

What I thought

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I thought it would be a ghost story of a kind. I suppose in some ways it was. As it moves back and forth in time between 1972 and 20 years after the event, we can see how those who are left behind – the wives, are still left with ghosts from the past. Not just losing their husbands but also the secrets they have been keeping and the feelings they have tried to bury for so long.

The story is told in alternating chapters. Starting with the writer who wants to hear from the wives their side of the story and what they thought happened to their husbands twenty years before, the wives start to relate their thoughts to him. Throughout the book we never hear any dialogue from the writer himself, he just gives a platform for the characters Helen, Jenny and Michelle to talk through the events, to tell us the reader what life was like for a lighthouse keepers wife. In other chapters we hear from the keepers themselves as they work on the lighthouse before their disappearance.

It is an atmospheric book with descriptions of the eeriness of the lighthouse, the isolation, the being away from home for weeks at a time and not seeing another living person apart from the two other people they share the lighthouse with. Descriptions of the weather, the storms as well as the sometimes calm seas all add to the atmosphere.

It was a sad story in the end, very poignant. So much time over the twenty years since their husbands vanished is wasted, especially for Jenny.

I messed around with this book too much. Because it wasn’t what I thought it would be, because I felt it a little slow to get going I abandoned it half way through. Not with the intention of never finishing it but to squeeze two books in between because as a reader, as in life, you always think the grass will be greener in the next book or the book after that. I regret that because when I went back to it to finish the rest, I really got into the story and enjoyed it very much and wish now that I’d read it through from beginning to end without stopping in order to fully appreciate it. Time and again with books I’m shown that patience reaps rewards.

All I can say is don’t have any pre-conceptions of what you think this book might be, just read it and give it time to unfold and I think you will enjoy it very much. Definitely a book I think you could read a second time and get more from it, perhaps see it from a different perspective.

♥ Happy Reading ♥

Rating: 4 out of 5.

With thanks to the publisher Picador for an ARC of the book via Netgalley.

The book is published today 4 March in ebook and hardback.

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