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The Lighthouse Stevensons Paperback – November 7, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (November 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060932260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060932268
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #931,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Whenever I smell salt water, I know that I am not far from one of the works of my ancestors." --Robert Louis Stevenson
The 14 lighthouses dotting the Scottish coast were all built by the same family that produced Robert Louis Stevenson, Scotland's most famous novelist. Surprised? Bella Bathurst throws a powerful, revolving light into the darkness of this historical tradition. Robert Louis was a sickly fellow, and--unlike the rest of his strong-willed, determined family--certainly not up to the astonishing rigors of lighthouse building, which is vividly described here. Constructing these towering structures in the most inhospitable places imaginable (such as the aptly named Cape Wrath), using only 19th-century technology, is an achievement that beggars belief. One thinks of the pyramid building of ancient Egypt. At the Skerryvore lighthouse, the ground rocks were prepared by hand (even though the "gneiss could blunt a pick in three blows") in waves and winds "strong enough to lift a man bodily off the rock" and that "it took 120 hours to dress a single stone for the outside of the tower, and 320 hours to dress one of the central stones. In total 5000 tons of stone were quarried and shipped"--and all by hand. It is mind-boggling stuff: you'll look at lighthouses with a new respect. --Adam Roberts, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A real-life Shipping News, Bathurst's flamboyant and elegantly written saga is bursting with life, laced with romantic dreams, oversized ambitions, murder, piracy, nepotism, smoldering feuds, scientific ingenuity and the lonely heroism of men battling the elements. Bathurst tells how four generations of Robert Louis Stevenson's family designed and built the 97 manned lighthouses that speckle the Scottish coast. A reluctant engineer turned writer, RLS transmuted his lighthouse-building expeditions around Scotland's northern coast into Treasure Island and Kidnapped, but he rebelled against his quarrelsome father, Thomas, who tried to corral him into the family business. The rest is literary history. Much less well-known is the Lighthouse Stevensons' extraordinary family history: they built harbors, canals, railways and street lighting systems, and contributed numerous inventions to optics, engineering and architecture. Yet, out of stubborn altruistic pride, no family member ever took out a patent on any of their inventions. Even readers with no special interest in the sea or Scotland will be swept up in Bathurst's narrative, intriguingly illustrated with photographs, prints and drawings. Sir Walter Scott, Michael Faraday and Daniel Defoe stalk through these pages, and Bathurst unveils the Lighthouse Stevensons' battles, accomplishments, frustrations and personal tragedies against a backdrop of the Scottish Enlightenment, the advent of British naval supremacy, the Crimean War, the destruction of Highland society and the uneasy marriage of Scotland and England. She also devotes a marvelous, wistful chapter to the lost art of lighthouse-keepingAall of Britain's lighthouses are now automated, computers having replaced keepers. Her exuberant family drama is an enchantment. Author tour. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

If you don't have a summer book yet, and you like good non-fiction.
Patricia L. MacAodha
If this were a paper from one of my students, it would get about a C-.
Patrick Cabe
A wonderful book about the Stevenson's and their fantastic lighthouses.
Dad

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I must disagree with the earlier reviewers. While the book would have benefited from a more thorough editing and proofreading process, I nonetheless greatly enjoyed reading it. It appeared to be well researched and the author obviously has a passion for the subject. I found the Stevenson family fascinating. The descriptions of the building of the lighthouses, particularly the great ones; Eddystone, Bell Rock, and Skerryvore, imparted a sense of both the excitement in attempting such daunting projects and the tremendous difficulties that were overcome to build the structures. I also enjoyed the illustrations, but wish that more had been included. I would recommend this book to anyone having an interest in the history of lighthouses or maritime engineering.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Patricia L. MacAodha on July 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Extraordinary" is certainly the appropriate term for Bathurst's excellent documentation of the incredible Stevenson family of lighthouse engineers. Up to this time, most of the attention toward this families accomplishments has focused on the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, and left others of his amazing family in the dust. Bathurst's research is impressive and her ability to tell this story is thorough, yet highly enjoyable(I missed my bus twice.). The most exciting part really is about patriarch Robert Stevenson's building of the lighthouse at Bell Rock. You can feel the sense of horror as Stevenson notices their ship has pulled away from it's moorings, and his realization that death may be near as the tide rises. If you don't have a summer book yet, and you like good non-fiction. Try this one!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dad on November 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A wonderful book about the Stevenson's and their fantastic lighthouses. I throughly enjoyed reading this book. Several small errors; Robert Stevenson could not have used Dynamite in the early 1800's because it was not invented by Nobel until 1862. If the NBL was still consulting with Michael Faraday in 1883 it must have been by ouija board because Faraday died in 1867. The weight of a square foot of water is zero while a cubic foot of sea water weights 64lb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I must disagree with the earlier reviewers. While the book would have benefited from a more thorough editing and proofreading process, I nonetheless greatly enjoyed reading it. It appeared to be well researched and the author obviously has a passion for the subject. I found the Stevenson family fascinating. The descriptions of the building of the lighthouses, particularly the great ones; Eddystone, Bell Rock, and Skerryvore, imparted a sense of both the excitement in attempting such daunting projects and the tremendous difficulties that were overcome to build the structures. I also enjoyed the illustrations, but wish that more had been included. I would recommend this book to anyone having an interest in the history of lighthouses or maritime engineering.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The original British version does not have the typos, and can be ordered from Amazon.co.uk The British version has been very well received and I'd recommend it very highly. I understand the US version is being corrected for typos and re-printed.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
The large number of very favorable editorial reviews ( by some of the most respected critics) confirm that this is an excellent piece of writing. Apparently,at least one edition lacked appropriate checking and editing. But these irritating deficiencies should not be allowed to degrade the average customer review to a level that turns away potential readers who would otherwise enjoy this excellent book.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This books subjects are potentialy wonderful - the lighthouses of Scotland's wild coasts and the men who overcame what were seen in their time as insurmountable obstacles by building them. But the book is a mess. It is poorly constructed, with lots of irrelevant material, (a whole chapter about some English loony who didnt even build a lighthouse) and a fair amount of women's mag level psychobabble without any real insight into the character, intelligence or motivations of the Stevensons. There is little make us care about them as people. There is also no hint of any real understanding of the technical achievements of the Stevensons who were working at the frontiers of engineering and technology of their times(and thus no convinving attempt to convey it to us!). Also, God only knows why the book wasnt properly proof read or edited but it wasn't - which just adds to the irritation. This review is a bit of a fraud because I was so disgusted I didn't finish reading it. However even on 2/3 reading it is apparent that any pretentions to write a definitive account of the lives of the Stevensons must await the efforts of someone more competent than the author.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on September 23, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bella Bathurst is a bit of a conjurer. In just over 260 pages, she has managed to provide a lot of fascinating, exciting and even quirky information concerning the construction of the Scottish lighthouses, plus well-crafted biographical portraits of members of four generations of the Stevenson family. She gets the reader hooked immediately, interestingly enough, by writing about someone who was not even a member of the Stevenson clan - Captain George Manby. Manby, around 1805, came up with a method of keeping rowboats afloat in heavy seas, to be used in conjunction with a "rescue line" tossed out to foundering ships which were close to shore. In conjunction, these would be used to rescue seamen before their ships sank and they drowned. This didn't appeal to the people called "wreckers," who depended upon booty from the sunken ships for their livelihood. In their view, it was better to let crew members drown - after all, they might put up a fuss concerning the theft of the ships' cargo. When, in 1807, the naive Manby let some wreckers take him out on a boat so he could test the seaworthiness of his new and buoyant rowboats, the wreckers intentionally capsized the boat - hoping to drown Manby, who couldn't swim. (Fortunately for Manby, he managed not to drown.) This anecdote ties into the rest of the book, because when the Stevenson family started building lighthouses, the wreckers weren't too thrilled with that development either. So, a lot of the people in the seaside communities didn't exactly put out the welcome mat. Not only that, but the Stevensons' had to put up with "press gangs" trying to shanghai workers so they could man merchant and military ships.Read more ›
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