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Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson

Total stars out of 5: 3.5

All the members were really entranced with the lyrical language. Once we had started reading we couldn’t put the book down.  We also agreed the beginning of the book was far better than the rest. There was humour, good dialogue, and we could relate to the characters and their story and feel invested in the story of Silver.

Some excellent thoughts from one of our members:

“The book itself is told with multiple stories, the reader has to get used to popping from tale to tale, from old sea legends to the exploits of a bigamous Victorian clergyman and Silver’s own story of a displaced child growing into confused womanhood, with problems if her own.

Another theme that runs parallel to the story telling is that of light and darkness. ‘Darkness is a presence. I learned to see in it…’ (pg20). Silver learns to see thought the figurative darkness of her situation and the real darkness of her surroundings, just as Pew has coped with his blindness.

Stories are also linked to the theme of light ‘…it was soon discovered that every light had a story – no, every light was a story, and the flashes themselves were stories going out over the waves, as markers and guides and comfort and warning.’ (pg41)

Silver herself makes sense of her own life by telling it as story – Pew told her. ‘…if you can tell yourself like a story, it doesn’t seem so bad.’ (pg27)

Winterson’s prose is an absolute delight and anyone who has lived in close proximity if the sea will understand the rhythmic power of the lighthouse beam, turning, searching, and reaching out to hose seeking safe harbour.”

When the lighthouse was earmarked for automation it was like Silver was cast adrift and you could feel it in the vagueness of her story from then on. Not having the lighthouse as her anchor she didn’t know how to interact with the ‘normal’ world. Silver appears to be amoral, she does things that are ‘wrong’ but she simply doesn’t see it that way. Stealing a parrot and stalking a librarian. She spends some time in a mental institution thought we are not giving details as to what the doctors actually thought was troubling her, or how long she spent there.

I personally didn’t like the part about the librarian not being entirely helpful to Silver, even though all she wanted was to read a book. Silver didn’t feel welcomed in the library and I felt outraged on her behalf. The conclusion of Silver’s story takes her back to the lighthouse where she essentially breaks in to recapture her past or find some closure as her life has been ‘all over the place’ since she left the security of the lighthouse.