Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by
Hazel Gaynor explores relationships, some tragic and some
hopeful. This historical novel, inspired by true events, is
a gripping story about the extraordinary female lighthouse
keepers who lived one hundred years apart.
Having visited a lighthouse, the author, “saw the island
Grace lived on.” It made me realize how remote her life
was and how she lived under cramped conditions. I also stayed
at a lighthouse in Ireland with my husband and children. It
is no longer a working lighthouse but has been set up for
people to stay in this 200-year-old structure. It was quite
the experience, having to climb 190 steps from the bottom
to the bedrooms that came off a spiral staircase. There was
no Wi-Fi and we were surrounded by nature, the country side,
and the sea. I found it quite an emotional experience. The
lighthouses in the story are strong, immovable, and permanent.
Bantered by the elements they try to keep people safe. As
I wrote in the book, it has the company of the “birds
and the sea, with the wild winter winds and temperate summers.’
Grace was connected to the lighthouse, having a relationship
of sorts because her life was rooted in this place.”
Readers first see the real-life heroine Grace Darling who
in 1838 in Northumberland, England at the Longstone Lighthouse
on the Farne Islands rescued shipwreck survivors in a furious
storm along with her father. This twenty-two year old woman
became thrown into England’s national limelight, the
subject of newspaper articles, poems, ballads, and plays.
At the time, it was unheard of for a woman to be involved
in such a rescue. They did reach some survivors, eventually
bringing them to safety but the memory of what they saw and
experienced is forever etched in their consciousness. What
came out of the fame was the renewal of the friendship that
had developed between Grace and a visiting artist, George
Emmerson, who captured her with his brushes and in his heart.
one of the characters existed Gaynor made sure to stick to
the facts. “I wanted to put forth how Grace was amazing,
complex, clever, vibrant, brave, and courageous. She was an
earnest, devoted daughter. The duty she had with the lighthouse
conflicted with the human emotions of a young woman falling
in love. Being thrown into the public spotlight was something
she felt very uncomfortable with. She could not handle the
pressure, essentially being elevated into this Saintly woman
who did save survivors including Sarah Dawson. Although I
developed the artist because there are only sketchy details.
George Emmerson is my fictional interpretation of that relationship.
I obviously imagined how Grace and George would interact.
As a novelist, I drew out the different relationships, what
their life was like, and what happened. As an author, I also
struggle with giving my characters a happily ever after. We
do lose people in our lives and must deal with the real human
experience of grief.”
Fast-forward one hundred years to another lighthouse, this
one in Newport Rhode Island. Nineteen-years-old, pregnant,
and unmarried, Matilda Emmerson has been sent away from Ireland
in disgrace. She is to stay until her baby is born, with Harriet
Flaherty, a reclusive relative and assistant lighthouse keeper.
Tired of sitting around Matilda finds a chest full of documents
of her families past that includes a half-finished discarded
portrait, which opens a window into Matilda’s family
wanted to write her as independent, rebellious, and brave.
She did not follow what society expected of her and in the
end knew she had to stand on her own two feet. She was a young
Irish woman who came to America to find a new life for herself.
Even though she lived one hundred years after Grace, she still
struggled with having a say over her life. While Grace felt
isolated, Matilda felt it very freeing. It is easier for her
to shake off the social norms, able to make more choices than
Although one hundred years apart both stories are one of heartache
and inspiration. These three strong women are gutsy, courageous
of other titles by this Author
Girl From the Savoy
Girl Who Came Home
Christmas in Paris - w/ Heather Webb
Lighthouse Keepers Daughter