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THE LAMPLIGHTERS BY EMMA STONEX

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

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REVIEWS

Christine Smith

My expectation of the book was that the author would take the premise of the true story of the Scottish lighthouse mystery of Eilean Mor in 1900 and run with it as an exciting thriller, instead, and this is personal, we have a very well written, edited and readable story which is about the pretty mundane lives of the three keepers and their wives/partners over two timelines who have personal demons and a mysterious author whose voice we never hear until the end. The story is written from the three women’s view at times as an uninterrupted dialogue which is a bit like a person continuously speaking and never breathing. Summary, readable but lacking excitement and drama!

Eileen Argent

The Lamplighters is based on a true and factual incident on the Flannan Isle Lighthouse, in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland in 1900. Emma Stonex has used this happening to weave her own gripping psychological plot about the fate of the three lighthouse keepers, Arthur, Bill and Vince and their women, in Cornwall. The lives of these characters are gradually exposed of their inner secret torments. The narrative moves easily between the men in 1972 and the women in 1992. Stonex successfully creates an atmosphere of hidden mystery and intrigue. Her rich and detailed descriptions of the grey sky, raging ocean, churning waves, fog and the fury of the wind is breath-taking, and totally engages the reader. This gripping and highly recommended novel has an excellent and believable end to the fate of the three lighthouse keepers.

Pat Wassell

I am not familiar with the author but I enjoyed the book very much. Twenty years after the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers Dan Sharp attempts to discover the truth. The narrative moves along by giving all the characters individual chapters. As the story progresses the secrets of the small closely knit community of the keepers and their families unfold. The saying “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive “ comes to mind. Even the journalist has a secret. The book is well researched, well written and very atmospheric. There is a resolution of sorts at the end of the novel. The relationships between Helen, Jenny, and Michelle improve and their families are able to move on. A truly good read - un-put-downable!

Mary Jenkins

This is very well written book atmospheric and descriptive. The characters and their living conditions are so accurately described that you immediately feel part of the village and lighthouse. The author has based the story around real events, and one assumed she elaborated on the facts but it is totally believable. The reader is kept interested by introducing new facts throughout the book and in some cases I found myself wondering if the sightings are in fact ghosts, real people or in the lighthouse keepers imagination. It is hard to believe that in such a tight community that the affairs between the keepers and wives could go unnoticed! I was intrigued to find out the ending but there was a straight forward explanation. However I was disappointed not to discover who or what were the strange sightings. It is an enjoyable read which kept me guessing until the end.

Laine Greenland

It took some getting used to the format of this book but once I did it was easy enough to follow. The details of lighthouse keeping were new and obviously central to the story but not of great interest to me. The human side of the women and their relationship with their men and each other was fascinating. Each one held a secret, some held the same secret but saw it quite differently. I did not anticipate the final twist. The story was too dark and overlong for me. However it was well written and very different.

Colin Reeve

This book was at times difficult to read yet it held you right to the end. The story centres around the lives of offshore lighthouse keepers back in the days when lighthouses had live-in keepers, it explores theirs lives and the environment they lived in, cooped up in a small space day after day with a sole purpose to keep the light shining. Initially I found it difficult to follow the family links between husbands and wives and this became more complicated as the story unfolded. It is cleverly written as it quietly demands that you keep reading it as the outcome seems to be impossible. The character development is subtle but somewhat fragmented as the chapters jump from one to another and across two time periods and almost inevitably, they become intertwined and complex. Not until the end do most questions get answered, but it leaves you with some unanswered questions as a mystery like this I suppose probably should. For me this was a regular read, I don’t think I could have put it down and left it for a few days and then picked up the threads again.

Louise Birley

In a 'tower' lighthouse, just off the coast, three men work to keep the lamp lit. One would think they live in close community of people dealing with similar stresses but then as this story develops we are given glimpses of tensions, real or imagined, in each of the people. In 1952, when the supply boat arrived at the lighthouse there was no one there. The steel door to the tower was locked from the inside, no bodies were found, the table was set for two people only and all the clocks were set at 8.45. The weather log for the tower reports a storm circling the rock but the weather was calm that night. There is the mystery here; what really happened? Twenty years later a journalist visits the women to learn their version of the events and to seek some background information for the novel he is planning. Helen has developed her own narrative but is happy to help him search. Jenny is not keen to see him. She had turned away from Helen while the men were still alive and has rebuffed every attempt at contact. Michelle eventually talks with the journalist as she also tries to work out what happened to her first love. Our action moves back and forth from 1972 to 1952, piecing together possible explanations. This book kept me guessing and pondering right to the end, a perfect read for a cruise.

Pat Wood

This is an unusual story; at first it seems like a thriller… what happened to the three lighthouse keepers who disappeared in 1972? A journalist decides some 20 years later to investigate, and involve the partners of the men in his work. But it soon develops into a bigger mystery; why is there resentment or problems between the women? What are they hiding? What do they know? I liked the descriptions of the lighthouse and its setting; it became a significant other character. I enjoyed the construction of the book, moving between 1972 and 1992 and between the stories of the main characters, building them gradually into recognisable people. Towards the end it becomes more mysterious and more of a ghost story. Overall, it was a fascinating, enjoyable read with an ending that sent shivers down one’s spine!

John Leopold

The majesty, the danger, the beauty of the sea is ever present in Emma Stonex’s novel, The Lamplighters. Nowhere more so than from a lighthouse perched on a rock out in the ocean, especially when stormy seas prolong periods of isolation. Inspired by a real event in Scotland, this story is set in Cornwall. Three keepers disappear from a locked lighthouse in 1972. The narrative oscillates between the stories of the three men and those of their partners. In 1992 a writer reopens the memories of the three women. The narrative moves from their understanding of events of twenty years earlier and their current lives, cut with the stories of the three keepers set in 1972. The relationships of the six protagonists are more intertwined and complex than appear at first sight. All culminating in the reader receiving an explanation of why the three disappeared. But not the three women who are left with uncertainty and lives still deeply affected by what happened twenty years before. Stonex explores these interpersonal relationships and the relationship with the sea in a compelling way that has the reader moving between time zones and characters in the search for the truth.

Sush Day

What happened to the three men who vanished without trace from a remote lighthouse? Inspired by actual events of 1972 this novel is narrated by six characters in turn, the three workers in the lighthouse and their spouses ashore. They all harbour individual secrets and one gets tantalising glimpses into their characters and begins to understand their actions. They have quite different personalities and while the men in the lighthouse rub along , the three women are not inclined to be chummy even though they live in close proximity. The lighthouse can be seen from their cottages but the women do not go there. The sea is mostly hostile. “a slugging sea, yanking us up and thumping us down”, “white lather spumed on top of mounting waves. The wind dashed and bawled.” Don’t be put off by the long references to the grinding monotony of life in a lighthouse. It is very inf ormative and leaves one with great sympathy for the lighthouse keepers of those days. The ending is plausible and it is left to the reader to decide whether the spooky element was real or the product of a fertile imagination.

David Morrison

This was not my usual choice of reading but what a refreshing and enjoyable change. A beautifully crafted mystery, so easy to read as we are provided with an understanding of how keepers deal with life on remote lighthouses surrounded by ever changing seas. The author takes us inside the minds of the characters, and we feel their emotions, pain and their conflicts. Gradually a picture emerges of the interactions between the main characters and their relatives. As each individual's secret emerges, you become drawn into and immersed in the story while their consequences play out and suspense builds. The feelings of guilt, past upbringing and misunderstandings and lost chances to communicate.

Nicholas Rogan

I read this intriguing mystery over three evenings and looked forward to my adventure with The Lamplighters with eagerness and mounting curiosity. The authors understanding and closeness to the sea and lighthouses certainly shines through the pages of this mystery but the intensity and understanding of characterisation brought all the players to life for me. Be careful when and where you start reading this fascinating and absorbing mystery - you may go missing yourself for a few days!

Lesley Ralston

I found the first half tedious, but intriguing. 2nd half livened up (although I appreciate it wasn't the sort of narrative which was livened). In retrospect I did enjoy the book. It was an original story. I found the monologues rather repetitive and - well boring. Overall it was not really my kind of book.