The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter [Book Review]

November 2, 2018

Do you love lighthouses?

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

the Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Jazel Gaynor (cover) Image: a woman looks out over a landscape which includes a lighthouse

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Inspired by true events, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter shares the story of Grace Darling, an extraordinary young woman who helps her father keep the Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands off the coast of northeast England. One day in 1838 during a furious storm, Grace and her father rescue nine shipwreck survivors. Grace gains notoriety and finds herself the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. The dear friendship that develops between Grace and one of the survivors and the survivor’s brother continues to impact lives 100 years later.

In 1938 at another lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island, nineteen year old Matilda is sent away from Ireland in disgrace to live with a distant relative who happens to be an assistant lighthouse keeper. As Matilda stumbles upon an old chest containing artifacts from her family history, she uncovers the story of Grace and the connections Grace has to Matilda’s great-great-grandmother. Although Matilda’s part of the story is pure fiction, the hurricane that hits the east coast of the U.S. in 1938 is historic.

Author, Hazel Gaynor, creates strong connections between two time periods and two story lines including hurricane events of 1838 and 1938, complex connections between past and present family members, and lighthouse themes between the stories.

Amazon (Early) Star Rating (November): 4.3 Stars

My Thoughts:

It’s always challenging to write a review when there’s so much to say!

Stars. First, I awarded The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter all the stars because it is an engaging page turner with a complex plot, poignant themes, inspiring and well drawn characters, and the story tugs at the emotions. Any time I’m left with a bit of a reading hangover, I know it’s a 4 or 5 star read. While it’s a solid 4.5, I bumped it up to 5 on Goodreads because of the excellent writing.

Characters. One of Hazel Gaynor’s strengths is in creating and writing about strong, memorable female characters. Grace Darling is a real person and a good portion of the story explores the true events that surround her life. In the 1830s, she remarkably takes on responsibilities at the lighthouse that are usually assigned to men. In fact, she can take care of the lighthouse as well as her brother can and has more passion for the job, yet at that time in history, the assignment of lighthouse keeper is given to her brother. Grace also shows initiative in rescuing and caring for nine shipwreck survivors. Grace is a heroine and a role model for women in 1838. Her courage and determination inspired an independently minded and troubled Matilda later in the story.

Even the brave were once afraid. The sum of generations of strong, courageous women who came before her, an echo of them all lingering in her soul.

While Grace is a real person, the strong women characters we meet in 1938 are fictionalized, but they represent the work that women accomplished as lighthouse keepers. All four women characters in this story are brave and formidable as they draw strength from each other.

The inspiration Matilda is able to draw from Grace and the strong women in her family, reminds me how grateful I am for the strong generations of women in my own family. I think the spirit of courage, bravery, and determination is passed along from generation to generation. Do you have stories of strong women in your family?

Even though the connection between all the characters comes together neatly in the end, I feel it is a touch too coincidental, convenient, and easy……but still emotionally rewarding.

The Wikipedia article on Grace Darling can be found here; however, I recommend NOT reading it until after you’ve read the story to avoid spoilers.

Plot. A complex and multilayered plot, multiple perspectives, two time periods, and two locations will keep you engaged! I enjoyed how the two different time periods complimented each other in setting, family ties, facing hurricanes, and the characterizations of strong women.

Setting. If you love the sea and lighthouses, you will absolutely love the settings described in The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter. Author Hazel Gaynor creates a delightful sense of place in both England and Rhode Island seaside locations. Even the detail of the collected shells connects both story lines.

Themes. Inspirational themes abound in The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, and if you read my reviews you know that the presence of important themes often make or break my reading experience. I can overlook a lot in the presence of great writing and themes. In this story, poignant themes include father/daughter relationships; the lighthouse as a symbol of protection, guidance, safety, and protection; found family; strong and independent women finding their way and their voice; and family heritage.

Writing. In addition to the compelling story lines, you will enjoy excellent writing. I love a story in which I can appreciate the beautiful writing but it doesn’t interfere with the story. The writing flows as the author creates vivid images, memorable characters, and transitions between story lines. Hazel Gaynor is also the co author of the Last Christmas in Paris, one of my favorites of the year.  She has secured a place on my “auto buy” author list!

Lighthouses. Do you love lighthouses? Do you have a favorite lighthouse location? Do you have a nostalgic lighthouse story?

My personal lighthouse story: Several years ago my husband and I traveled to York, Maine so that my husband could meet his biological sister for the first time in his life! The Nubble Lighthouse is well loved by his sister’s family, and now it’s our favorite too! Here’s a pic my husband and I took in front of the lighthouse marking the occasion of birth siblings reunited!

nubble lighthouse
Nubble Lighthouse, York, Maine

Recommended. I’m highly recommending The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter for readers of historical fiction; for fans of stories with important themes; for those who savor stories of strong, independent women; and for all who are looking for an engaging and well-written story. Because of rich discussion possibilities, book clubs will enjoy this one.

My Star Rating: 4.5 Stars (rounded up to 5 stars on Goodreads)

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lighthouse keeper's daughter

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter Information Here

Meet the Author, Hazel Gaynor

Hazel GaynorHAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel, The Girl from the Savoy, was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. In 2017, she has published The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris. Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages. Hazel lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.

Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text


Have you read The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter or is it on your TBR?
Do you have a favorite lighthouse location or lighthouse story?

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Looking Ahead in “Nonfiction November”

What do you have on your TBR for “Nonfiction November”?

One title that I’m considering is In Pieces by Sally Field. Beginning with The Flying Nun, Sally Field has played a lifelong prominent role in my entertainment life!

In Pieces

Another consideration is the new release by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Leadership: In Turbulent Times. I’m almost certain that this is what my husband will be reading for “Nonfiction November” as Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of his “auto buy” authors!

leadership in turbulent times

My Fall TBR

I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
So far I’ve read nine out of my twelve titles (three more to go!).

***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.



  1. I’ve only read one of Hazel Gaynor’s books. This one sounds really good, I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR! I love historical fiction and dual timeline stories and it’s interesting that both of the timelines take place in the past – usually one is more contemporary!

  2. I had a feeling you’d love this, too, Carol. What a brilliant review. I loved your lighthouse story with your hubby, and the pic is beautiful. I think you already read my lighthouse story over on my review. I LOVE lighthouses. ♥️ happy weekend and happy reading!

  3. First of all– Love seeing the photo of you two in front of the lighthouse!! So fun! Was that a recent vacation?? And glsd to read your review. Just looking at the cover, I don’t think I would have picked up this book, but you make it sound so worthwhile. And- I’m half way through my first Louise Penny book! So your note caught my eye. I have friends who love her and I see her name pop up here and there and then at the library last week, the docent in the bookshop was reading a Louise Penny– so I picked it up! OK, hope you are enjoying the weekend. We drove out to Pomona for the house tour today, and I read my book all the way out and back! hugs Carol!

    • We went to Maine 5 years ago. We spent a week at York Beach getting to know my husband’s new sister! Pretty special and fun to gain a new sister at their ages!

      I think you would like Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter! Hazel Gaynor is a great writer!

      I’m glad you are reading Louise Penny! Welcome to 🌲🌲🌲 My only small complaint about some of her stories is her negative comments about the organized church. But overall I love the atmospheric and character driven series! Love Inspector Gamache! It’s fun to have a series to read. Eager for number 14 soon! Oh, did you start with #1?? I found that they get better after about book #4. (2&3 were my least fav).

      • HI Carol– great picture– How did you husband “find” a new sister??! Sounds like a story… And I’m reading A Trick of the Light. Dont’ know what # it is– but enjoying it a lot. Inspector Gamache is so smart and gracious. And I did notice a bit of disdain for faith– normal today. But enjoying the story! Happy reading friend– xoxo

      • My hubs gaining a new sister is quite a story! He (We) met his birth mom 30+ years ago……she said that her daughter (18 months younger) didn’t want to meet him (us)……so we didn’t push the issue….just terribly disappointed after flying our family all the way to NY. Well….through the years, we exchanged Christmas cards and pictures with birth mom…..hubs called her once a year on his birthday to thank her for giving him life. But never pressed meeting the sibling. 5 years ago birth mom dies and when daughter was going through her things she discovered a box of cards, pics, and correspondence…..she emailed my hubs and asked him “what was the nature of your relationship with my mom” ….. we told her and it was quite a shock as the birth mom had not even told her daughter about my hubs. This happened in January and the next August we flew to Maine to spend a week at York Beach and to meet them. It was emotional and good! They’ve been in constant contact ever since. Neither of them understand the mom’s motivations in keeping them apart….but it was a different time and considered a shameful secret. We’re still not quite sure who the birth father is…..the mom named him but he denied it and refused to meet my hubs when we flew back there. We’re still trying to prove or disprove this using Ancestry DNA results.

        You might enjoy the entire Inspector Gamache series as it has a larger story arc that is a thread through all the books. Gamache is a great example of a moral, kind, and compassionate character and the stories are not too violent or graphic…..but filled with character development, human nature themes, and a delightful sense of place. I read in an interview that Louise Penny created him as someone she could have married because she knew she’d be spending so much time with him. Eager for #14 November 27.

        I’ve read 2 meh books in a row and I’m so discouraged! Now I don’t have a book review ready for this week’s post 😩 the second book was going to be a sure fire back up for the first meh read. So I think I’ll review a favorite I read years ago! Happy reading book buddy!

      • What a story Carol! Lots of questions. But so dear that your husband finally has been able to enjoy his sister. And– I think you described the Louise Penny book perfectly (of course you did– you’re the book review pro!). and I laughed to read she crated someone she could have married because of the time together! I found out this is book #7–so I do need to go back… What are you doing for Thanksgiving?? Are you the cook? Hope it’s a wonderful day… xo

      • Re Louise Penny….I think the books get better beginning with #4……..#1 is ok as it introduces characters, setting, etc……but I didn’t like #2 and #3 as well. You’d probably be ok to just continue from where you are.

        Re thanksgiving everyone usually comes here but I’m not sure yet who that everyone is ……we have a bit of a complication as we are expecting the birth of a new granddaughter around the 27th……so baby’s arrival could hijack thanksgiving this year! Fun! Fun! Fun! When I was teaching I started ordering most of our meal from Stephano’s… easy!

        I have a question about your blog post today…..,I received it in my email but when I clicked over to comment it said the page wasn’t available …… then I used my browser to go directly to your blog and today’s post isn’t there….just last week’s. Did you take it down or is there a glitch with WordPress?

        Enjoy your trip to SF!

      • Hi Carol– Thanks for the Louise Penny advice– I’d like to keep on reading… And just got the new book from the Leif Enger and started in last night. And– You are SO smart to order Thanksgiving dinner. I wonder if it’s too late for us to do that this year. We are all staying up in Ojai Wed – Sun at different Air Bnb’s and I’m wondering how much I need to drag up there to produce a Thanksgiving dinner– (Does our Air BnB have a mixer??!) I’m so excited to be there with all our kids, but I’d be happy with hot dogs! And– Yep, I accidentally clicked on publish for a post that was half done. So I deleted it and posted it finally this morning. So that’s why it showed up and disappeared. Al my fault! OK, Well, hope you have a good weekend ahead– Liked that you are reviewing books from your past reading– I think they’ll be easy to find at the library!! xox friend!

      • I think you’ll enjoy continuing to read LP…I think they get better and better!

        I hope you’ll enjoy Virgil! The vocabulary that Leif Enger uses is magnificent! Although I felt a bit intimidated …. there were some words I’d never heard of!

        I’d encourage you to order/buy dinner, pick it up wed, and pack it in coolers for the ride….or make everything at home and heat it up there……it would make me nervous to depend on having the right tools to make a dinner there! Keep it simple! It sounds like a grand and fun adventure!

        Re your blog post…I thought you might have experienced a WordPress glitch and didn’t know. I enjoyed the original post 😍 it still makes me nervous to hit publish!

        The favorites post was born out of necessity as I read TWO books that I couldn’t face reviewing 😩 I think it’s good to revisit our favs though! I know I’ve missed some great reads and love when others mention them so I can add them to The List 🤣

        Happy reading Rhonda!

      • Hi Carol — just launching into the Enger book– have it packed to take up to SF this week, time to read there . I agree. I’m definitely making the pies at home in my own oven on Wednesday morning. I need to think what else I can do ahead! And I say– keep the old books coming, good to know the good ones I”ve missed! hugs hugs!

      • Thanksgiving “to go” is a real challenge! It’ll make a good post though! Happy reading! Have fun with those littles in SF!

  4. […] The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor  (co author of Last Christmas in Paris…one of my favorites this year) (release date: 10/9) ***UPDATE: 4.5 Stars (rounded to 5 stars on Goodreads). Hazel Gaylor does it again! I loved this story. Full Review Here. […]

  5. Your review is so detailed! I loved your review, your Writing style! The way you talked about this book makes me want to read it. I also am a great fan of independent, strong women protagonists and this one seems like a good addition to that collection of books!

    • Thank you for your kind words and for stopping in to comment! Yes…this story is filled with strong female protagonists! I hope you enjoy the read!

  6. I only discovered Gaynor when I read the books she wrote with Heather Webb… I finally read a stand alone of hers, and now I see I have a rich back list to cover!

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