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The Lightkeeper's Daughter Hardcover – September 10, 2002
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The thunder of the waves, the screams of seagulls, and the smell of torn kelp suffuse this quiet, introspective story of a young woman's return to her childhood home on an island off the west coast of Canada. The sea in all its moods makes a turbulent background for a story of four people closely tied together by their idyllic but claustrophobic life alone on Lizzie Island, and by the tangled strands of resentment, guilt, and love that bind them. Elizabeth, nicknamed Squid, has brought a load of bitter anger with her on this first visit back to Lizzie Island since she left two years ago after her daughter, Tatiana, was born. The child is the result of an encounter with a passing kayaker, who took advantage of Squid's youthful innocence. The visit is tense also for Squid's parents, Hannah and Murray, the meticulous lighthouse keeper. All three blame themselves and each other for the death, or possible suicide, of Squid's brother, Alastair, but are unable to confront their feelings.
Iain Lawrence makes a striking shift in this book from the swashbuckling action of his seagoing trilogy, The Wreckers, The Smugglers, and The Buccaneers, to a contemplative story only gradually revealed in bits and pieces through the memories of the four principals. The harsh but seductive beauty of the island and its limitation on their lives is subtly portrayed in this book that will be enjoyed by older girls who are willing to accept its thoughtful pace. (Ages 14 and older) --Patty Campbell
From Publishers Weekly
Lawrence (the High Seas Trilogy) returns to the ocean for this exquisite novel that conjures literally the nature and mood of an island haunted by tragedy. When 17-year-old Elizabeth McCrae better known as Squid returns to her childhood home on Lizzie Island, a remote spot off the coast of British Columbia where her father serves as lightkeeper, she has a three-year-old daughter and a host of memories in tow. Chief among them are images of her brother, Alastair, who drowned when his kayak overturned. The events surrounding his death gradually and inexorably come to light, sifted through his journal entries (which Squid uncovers), scraps of remembered conversations and a compelling third-person narrative that alternates between Squid and her parents. Lawrence charts the course of the human heart, with cascading emotions of remorse and fury, love and passion, hope and nostalgia. Sea creatures take on metaphoric symbolism (a raven is "the Undertaker"; a beached whale prompts a conversation and some closure on Alistair's death). The author blends tangible descriptions ("There was no wind and no swell, and the water lapped at the shore as soft as cat tongues") and an elegiac tone (Hannah hesitates to use a pair of old U-boat binoculars: "It would be wrong to watch for her daughter through lenses that have witnessed the drowning of men") as he unspools an unforgettable tale. Rather ambiguous references to Tatiana's paternity mark this for mature readers. With adult characters every bit as memorable as the teen characters, plus its stunning ability to create a sense of the island's rhythms and habitat, Lawrence's novel not only lives up to the high standards of his previous works, but may well attract a wide adult readership. Ages 14-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Seventeen year old Squid (real name Elizabeth) is on a boat with her three year old daughter Tatiana traveling to an island that was her home for thirteen years. She's very apprehensive about the trip and what her mother and father, Helen and Murray, will think about her daughter, and what they will think about her since they haven't seen each other for years. Just thinking about the island brings back terrible memories as her brother Alastair had died there shortly before she left to give birth to her daughter. When she lands, its hard to see her parents and remember all the pain that they and the island brought by keeping her and her brother isolated there.
When she can, she escapes to the smaller house on the island where her brother had lived and reads his journals. They are filled with pain and his longing to leave the island and bring back memories for her of when they were small and traveling around the waters and island together. She reads these notes in secret and hopes that her mother and father won't find out about this, but she shouldn't worry too much as they have found distraction in her daughter. All these painful memories make her want to leave though but for the first time her daughter seems to be thriving. She's not sure what the best route to take would be.
These characters make up a very confused family. At times its painful to watch them interact with each other. This however, serves to make them very human and I do think that they were well written in this case. One complaint I would have in characterization would be Squid's reactions to some things. At times she acts like a normal seventeen year old and can get huffy at nearly anything, but the majority of the time she acts very old and mature. Granted she had a child young and had to grow up fast but it didn't feel authentic to me. There was just a sense that her character really didn't act like a seventeen year old most of the time.
The writing was in the third person and was written very clearly. Lawrence did an excellent job of keeping his writing level at a point that wasn't too mature for the juvenile crowd, but not too immature to make them avoid the book thinking it was for younger children. It deals with a lot of weighty topics and to my opinion, would appeal to the moodiness that some teenagers have at that age. That being said there were some things I was disappointed in. The book was written in third person and jumps around from Alastair's journal, to bits of the past Squid remembers, and the present time in which she is visiting. Normally this wouldn't' be a problem but its very choppily done in this book. It definitely could have flowed much smoother between transitions of subjects and time.
I wasn't crazy about this book but then I had to remember that I'm not in the age group it was directed at. It has an overall sense of moodiness and angst and I can see it resonating with people who need someone to understand the loneliness and awkwardness they are going through. If it weren't for the hard readability I would probably rate this book fairly well, but as such it was just average to me. If I happen to see them I'll check out some of his other work's as Lawrence does seem to be a talented writer. Hopefully I'll enjoy them more than I did this one.
The Lightkeeper's Daughter
Review by M. Reynard 2010
"Hannah, Squid, and Alastair sat on the rocks as sharp as nails. 'This is the byssus,' said Murray, spreading with his fingers the cottony threads that held the mussel to its rock. 'It's spun by a gland in the animal's foot. He lashes himself in place like Ulysses to his mast.' "He turned the shell in his hand. It was a California mussel, nearly eight inches long. He pointed out the scars along the shell, like patches of white on its deep purple back. 'This fellow,' he said, 'has had some sort of an accident. He might have been wacked by a log.' The scars were deep, and Murray picked at the grooves with his nails. 'The poor brute almost bought it there. Must have got the fright of his life.'
" 'How old is he?' asked Alistair.
" 'Hard to say.' Murray bounced the mussel in his palm. 'He's an old-timer, all right. They grow like weeds in the beginning; more than three inches the first year. But then they slow down, and this one's lived on the island maybe as long as I have.' "
Imagine being Murray and Hannah's kid: growing up on an island, learning how to swim before you walk, working with your parents for a few hours in the morning, and then having the rest of the day for exploring, reading, playing, dreaming, and listening to your father rhapsodize about the mysteries of the plant and animal kingdoms around you. Hop into a glass-bottomed rowboat he's built, paddle out into the water as you observe the creatures below, and then stow the oars as whales breach and blow alongside you.
Hungry? Need a new book? Don't worry! Supply ships come by the island every month so that you've got plenty of food, fuel, supplies, clothes, and books to read.
There is a downside, however.
Throughout the years of growing up, the only human contact that you have outside of your parents and sibling are those monthly supply ships and the voices of the other lightkeepers over the radio system, reporting the weathers every few hours.
THE LIGHTKEEPER'S DAUGHTER is the story of Squid (Elizabeth) and Alistair growing up on remote Lizzie Island, off the coast of British Columbia. It is told looking back, four years after Alistair had drowned, when seventeen year-old Squid brings her three year-old daughter to the island for the first time. It is a mysterious and taut tale about what went so terribly wrong with their idyllic existence on the island.
" 'Humpbacks sing,' said Murray. 'Did you know that?'
"She shook her head.
" 'Each year one of them starts a song. Then others pick it up; they lengthen it and change it.' He spoke softly--he always did--looking out to sea and not at her. 'By the middle of summer they all know the song. They sing in a chorus over hundreds of miles.'
"She leaned her head against his shoulder. She could feel him breathing, and she tried to do what the whales were doing, and time her breath to his.
" 'No one knew,' said Murray. 'Until the war. Then someone put a microphone in the water, hoping to hear submarines. They heard this singing instead. And they didn't know what the hell it was.' "She pressed herself against him. She was shivering, but he didn't notice.
" 'I don't understand it,' he said.
" 'The song?' she asked.
"He shook his head. 'Och, we'll never understand that. I mean how men could kill them.'
" 'No,' she said.'
"He sighed. 'They're wonderful things, whales are. They're miraculous.' "
This is a story that is haunting and bittersweet, a setting that is utterly entrancing. Murray has no use for civilization--he hasn't been off of the island since leaving school and taking over from the last lightkeeper. Hannah washed up on the shore a couple of decades after Murray arrived. The kids soon followed. Bit by bit the two children and their mother reveal the secrets of their lives with Murray, a barnacle of a man who has a life or death grip on the island. My own head will remain cemented to Lizzie Island and these characters for some time to come.
Growing up on the remote Lizzie Island and as a lightkeeper's daughter, Squid could swim before she could walk, and had only met 50 people in her entire 17 years. Squid returns to the island after three years separation with her three year old daughter Tatiana in tow. The reunion is painful, and redeeming, much of it bringing back memories of accidental or perhaps suicidal drowning of Squid's brother Alistar, and of Squid's pregancy from a lone kyaker when she was 13 years old. Much of the conflict in this story stems from the death of Alistar and how each member of the family deals with the regret, guilt, and loss, and from the difficulties and beauty of living daily with isolation and often violent nature.
I loved this book, and think it would be a wonderful read for the older thoughtful teen reader. I thought the rating as a 14+ teen novel was misleading as the slow poetic pace and thought provoking nature of the book might not capture the attention of the average teen. But, the gift in this book for me was truly the beautiful langugage Lawrence weaves throught out the story...The descriptions of the sea and rugged beauty of the island were truly captivating.
Most recent customer reviews
This book was strange but really interesting. At first I thought that the book was bad but as soon as I kept on reading, it started to get a...Read more