Review: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

Title: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


From The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home comes a historical novel inspired by true events, and the extraordinary female lighthouse keepers of the past two hundred years.

They call me a heroine, but I am not deserving of such accolades. I am just an ordinary young woman who did her duty.”

1838: Northumberland, England. Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands has been Grace Darling’s home for all of her twenty-two years. When she and her father rescue shipwreck survivors in a furious storm, Grace becomes celebrated throughout England, the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. But far more precious than her unsought fame is the friendship that develops between Grace and a visiting artist. Just as George Emmerson captures Grace with his brushes, she in turn captures his heart.

1938: Newport, Rhode Island. Nineteen-years-old and pregnant, Matilda Emmerson has been sent away from Ireland in disgrace. She is to stay with Harriet, a reclusive relative and assistant lighthouse keeper, until her baby is born. A discarded, half-finished portrait opens a window into Matilda’s family history. As a deadly hurricane approaches, two women, living a century apart, will be linked forever by their instinctive acts of courage and love.


Based on real life events and weaving back and forth in time, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor is an absolutely captivating historical novel.

In 1838, twenty-two year old Grace Darling lives with her family on Farne Island where her father is a lighthouse keeper. She assists him in his duties and has no desire to leave her quiet life. Grace finds the isolated setting a balm to her soul and she loves nothing more than exploring all of the wonders she finds in nature.  She is slightly enamored of artist George Emmerson but she realizes a match between them does not fit into the future she envisions for herself. However, her life and his are forever linked after she convinces her father they must rescue the survivors of a shipwreck.  The storm is still fiercely raging when she and her father row out to save them. Grace is particularly affected by the plight of Sarah Dawson and the two women grow close as Grace tries to help Sarah cope with her heartbreaking loss.  Grace’s daring rescue thrusts her in the public spotlight and although weary of the intense attention, she is delighted with an unexpected opportunity to spend time with George. Will fate allow the couple the chance for a future together?

In 1938, nineteen year old Matilda Emmerson is sent from her family home in Ireland to live with her distant cousin Harriet Flaherty in Newport, RI.  Unmarried and pregnant, the disgraced young woman is at first antagonistic upon meeting Harriet but the two soon form an uneasy truce. Matilda is particularly enamored with newly discovered information about a distant ancestor so she delighted to learn more about her family’s history. She is also quite fascinated by Harriet’s duties as a lighthouse keeper and while their relationship remains somewhat superficial, they enjoy spending time with each other. Matilda is inquisitive about Harriet’s life but with her cousin refusing to answer questions, her new friend, assistant lighthouse keeper Joseph Kinsella fills in some of the blanks. What impact will these revelations have on Matilda and Harriet’s fragile relationship?

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is a well-written historical novel with a charming storyline and endearing characters.  With Grace Darling’s real life rescue and aftermath serving as the novel’s backdrop,  Hazel Gaynor’s meticulous research and engaging prose bring both time periods vibrantly to life. The dual story arcs are equally compelling and the narrative seamlessly moves between Grace’s life in the past and Matilda’s in the present. The novel’s conclusion is heartbreakingly poignant yet incredibly satisfying. Fans of the genre will enjoy this outstanding gem which highlights a forgotten piece of lighthouse history.

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