Title: The Lamplighters
Writer: Emma Stonex
Publishing House: Pan MacMillan
Date of Publication: March 4th 2021
Rating: 4 stars
‘’Today it’s soundless. Jory knows loud seas and silent seas, heavy seas and mirror seas, seas where your boat feels like the last blink of humankind on a roll so determined and angry that you believe in what you don’t believe in, such as the sea being that halfway thing between heaven and hell or whatever lies up there and whatever lurks down deep. A fisherman told him once about the sea having two faces.’’
Cornwall, 1972. The three keepers of a formidable lighthouse vanish without a trace. The doors are locked. The table has been laid for dinner. The clocks have stopped at the same time. But Andrew, Bill and Vince are gone. 1992. A writer decides to write a book about the strange incident and conducts Helen, Jenny and Michelle, the women who were left behind. Their voices merge with the thoughts of the keepers and the truth – if there is an actual truth – is hidden behind the thick mist.
‘’The saying goes she makes a sound when the weather hits hard, like a woman crying, where the wind gets in between the rocks.’’
Inspired by the actual incident that took place in 1900 in the Outer Hebrides, Emma Stonex creates a novel of superb atmosphere and tension. The reader has to discern the validity of multiple accounts, each narrator has a piece of the puzzle and brick upon brick of contradictory opinion. The story is built upon the powerful themes of loneliness, monotony, isolation. Eerie scenes and memories of the past compose a tale where nothing is what it seems. A storm may or may not have happened. A man is in love with someone else’s wife and someone has committed a crime. The women have drifted apart, each one suspecting foul play against a husband. Whispers of hauntings and voices through the mists excite everyone’s imagination. The quiet humming of Scarborough Fair accompanies a mother’s grief…
In terms of atmosphere, this novel is top-notch. Perfect. But apart from Helen, Andrew and Bill, the characters felt problematic and I couldn’t bring myself to ‘’listen’’ to their call. I couldn’t stand Jenny and I wasn’t particularly interested in Pearl, Vince and Michelle’s chapters, hence the 4 stars. In my opinion, the characterization fell flat, as if it was sacrificed on the altar of mystery and eeriness.
This is a heavily-hyped novel and I agree 100%. Had the characters been more appealing (in my opinion), this would have been one of my reading highlights of the year.
‘’The moon pale – eyes through the window. Weird moon. Weird thoughts. Moons out here so bright it hurts. Against everything else they’re brighter than they should be. Imagining the moon is the sun and the whole world turned inside out.’’
Many thanks to Pan MacMillan and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.