Monday, 6 August 2007


I was inspired to seek out Lighthouse by Tony Parker after reading Stargazing by Peter Hill, last month. It kindled an interest in lighthouses or possibly *re*kindled as it's always been there - me being a good Cornish girl. ;-) Anyway, Amazon threw up this book when I searched the other as being something along the same lines to read. I then searched Devon's library catalogue and found they had a copy in Dawlish so off I went to claim that. And I'm glad. It's taken me a while to read but it was a fascianting book and I'm pleased I made the effort.

The book itself basically catalogues the lives of various lighthouse keepers and their families around the coast of Britain in the 1970s - before automation. Parker's method was take a tape recorder and record and then transcribe the interviews he had with people. So many different characters, lives, reasons for being there. All were so different it was amazing. Some sad, some uplifting, some of it made you want to weep. Some of them were quite happy on the land lights, some could only cope with rocks or towers. Everyone had a different story to tell. And then of course there are descriptions of the sea's power:

"It's not one gale, it's not two gales, it's not twenty gales tied together by their tails that frighten you. It's what comes after, when the wind's had two or three days to put a thousand miles of ocean into motion and turn it into what's called a heavy ground sea. That's what it is makes you afraid. It rolls the boulders along with it that are down there on the sea bed; and when it strikes them against the base of your tower the whole place quivers from top to toe. You can hear them, you can feel them: thump, thump, thump, being thrown like that under the water against the foundation, rolling into it one after the other and making the tower shake: and you shake with it too, like all your teeth are going to be rattled out of your head. On and on it goes, on and on. And each one you feel you think it can't take one more thump like that, the next one for certain will be the one that brings the place down with a crash, and that'll be the end. He'll have to have that experience to teach him to know the meaning of fear."

I don't know about you but I could actually feel those thumps...

Anyhow, an excellent read - I very much enjoy stories of people's lives simply told. I'm planning to seek out more lighthouse books, maybe something about the history of them next... and possibly some fiction if I can find any.


Kelly said...

Your quote reminds me of a Walt Whitman poem "In Cabin'd Ships at Sea" from Leaves of Grass about sailors feeling the sea beneath their ship...

Lighthouses are fascinating, aren't they? There is a lovely one where we vacation off the coast of South Carolina near Charleston that is threatened by erosion. The state is trying to preserve it, as explained here.

And if you're looking for historical fiction on lighthouses, you could try the Eugenia Price novels. The St. Simon's Trilogy, the first of which is Lighthouse, is about the keeper of the lighthouse on St. Simon's Island, off the coast of Georgia. I haven't read these, so can't comment on their quality, but know of many who love them. I believe that they veer a bit more towards the romance genre, though.

Cath said...

I enjoyed reading about the lighthouse in South Carolina. What a beautiful area! We've seen a little of the coast of *North* Carolina but not South. One day perhaps. I think the only lighthouses we've seen in the US have been on Lake Erie though. Our favourite was near Port Clinton, another beautiful area.

I'll see if I can find that poem on the net and will certainly investigate Eugenia Price's book. A new author to me and I don't mind romance in the slightest.