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Lighthousekeeping

Lighthousekeeping

Book rating: 03 Paperback

By (author) Jeanette Winterson

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  • Publisher: HarperPerennial
  • Format: Paperback | 304 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 20mm | 181g
  • Publication date: 3 May 2005
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0007181507
  • ISBN 13: 9780007181506
  • Sales rank: 96,058

Product description

From one of Britain's best-loved literary novelists comes a magical, lyrical tale of the young orphan Silver, taken in by the ancient lighthousekeeper Mr. Pew, who reveals to her a world of myth and mystery through the art of storytelling. Motherless and anchorless, Silver is taken in by the timeless Mr. Pew, keeper of the Cape Wrath lighthouse. Pew tells Silver ancient tales of longing and rootlessness, of the slippages that occur throughout every life. One life, Babel Dark's, a nineteenth-century clergyman, opens like a map that Silver must follow, and the intertwining of myth and reality, of storytelling and experience, lead her through her own particular darkness. A story of mutability, talking birds and stolen books, of Darwin and Stevenson and of the Jekyll and Hyde in all of us, Lighthousekeeping is a way into the most secret recesses of our own hearts and minds. Jeanette Winterson is one of the most extraordinary and original writers of her generation, and this shows her at her lyrical best.

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Author information

Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester in 1959. She read English at Oxford University before writing her first novel, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, which was published in 1985.

Customer reviews

By Mark Thwaite 10 Dec 2008 3

Pew is a blind lighthousekeeper who tells stories of the Pews who have always lived in the lighthouse at Cape Wrath in Salts. He tells them to the orphan Silver who, with nowhere else to live, is apprenticed to Pew by the formidable Miss Pinch. He tells stories about Babel Dark who appointed the first�?� Pew and who was the inspiration, it is told, for Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Dark's split personality arises from - indeed is - his love affair. Safely married in Cape Wrath and working as the community's vicar, Dark has another life in Bristol with his true love. He hates who he is - husband, cleric, upright citizen - and feels that his true self is the lover and�?� betrayer only allowed out on twice yearly visits to Bristol.
Love, then, is dangerous stuff. And it is about this dangerous stuff that Winterson has always written - and sometimes written exceptionally well. And, occassionally, she does so here. But only occassionally: sometimes Winterson's touch is wonderfully light and one remembers what a lambent, life-affirming writer she can be; sometimes it is quite leaden. The novel moves between the mawkish, the banal and the cliched and the beautiful, incisive and wise. And it moves between and across these elements throughout this uneven work. Overall I was compelled: sometimes Winterson's simplicity is refreshing and perfectly judged, but it regularly has a self-help banality.
The shape of the novel is rather ragged. As a work it feels rushed. Silver, for much of the book a child, suddenly moves on in her life becoming a thief and a traveller. After the lighthouse is closed, we get just two or three chapters - one of which about a library book is particularly badly written - before her final return to the lighthouse. Winterson may be interested in stories, but she most certainly is not interested in characters or characterisation. But Winterson pulls it back with the resolution of the book when Silver (or is it now Winterson herself?) addresses the reader directly. One wonders, here, whether the "I lovel you" Silver utters, as every writer is their own first reader, is a statement to the mirror, a self-validating and empowering sentence addressed principally to Winterson herself.

By Mark Thwaite 10 Dec 2008 3

Charmed by Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry and The Passion, I had not bothered with Jeanette Winterson's fiction for a number of years, but Lighthousekeeping was released with a new sense of purpose to her writing and Lighthousekeeping is a partial return to her best form. The novel like a document of intent. It is descriptive of storytelling: it tells stories about telling stories whilst telling its story. It suggests that telling stories is a way to exorcise the past and open a way into talking about the future by living now. And living now is - has to be - an expression of love (incuding, crucially, self-love) and love is our ongoing story.
Pew is a blind lighthousekeeper who tells stories of the Pews who have always lived in the lighthouse at Cape Wrath in Salts. He tells them to Silver, an orphan, who, with nowhere to live, is apprenticed to Pew by the formidable Miss Pinch. He tells stories about Babel Dark who appointed (the first?) Pew and who was the inspiration, it would seem, for Stevenson's (himself a lighthouse designer) Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Dark's split personality arises from - indeed is - his love affair. Safely married in Cape Wrath and working as the community's vicar, Dark has another life in Bristol with his true love. He hates who he is - husband, cleric, upright citiizen - and feels that his true self (only allowed out on twice yearly visits to Bristol) is the lover, the betrayer - an inversion of Stevenson, with the real self being judged by society "the monster". Love, then, is dangerous stuff. And it is about this dangerous stuff that Winterson has always written - and sometimes written exceptionally well and quite exquisitely. And she does so here, occassionally, once again. But only occassionally: sometimes Winterson's touch is wonderfully light and one remembers what a lambent, life-affirming writer she can be; sometimes it is quite leaden. The novel moves between the mawkish, the banal and the cliched and the beautiful, incisive and wise. And it moves between and across these elements throughout this clumsily uneven work. Overall I was compelled: sometimes Winterson's simplicity is refreshing and perfectly judged, but it regularly has a self-help banality.
Visited by Stevenson, Dark is a compelling character. It would have been gratifying to have his story more fully fleshed out. When Charles Darwin arrives to study a cave full of fossils (one of which, a sea horse, Dark keeps as a totem) that Dark has come upon, we are introduced to another of the book's themes. Love is a revolution but life, which must both contain it and be informed by it (and, ultimately, be it) is an evolution. Stories, memories, are told because life leaches, leaks, recedes: love keeps the boat afloat; stories are what we tell on the journey.
The shape of the novel is rather ragged. As a work it feels rushed. Silver, for much of the book a child, suddenly moves on in her life becoming a thief and a traveller. After the lighthouse is closed, and she must get on in life, we get two or three chapters - one of which about a library book is particularly badly written - before her final return to the lighthouse, as if there were enough to round-off her life. Winterson may be interested in stories, but she most certainly is not interested in characters or characterisation. Much of this is hurried and way below par. But Winterson pulls it back with the resolution of the book when Silver (or is it now Winterson herself?) addresses the reader directly (we've seen this too before, of course). One wonders, here, whether the "I lovel you" Silver utters, as every writer is their own first reader, is a statement to the mirror, a self-validating and empowering sentence addressed principally to Winterson herself.
Mark Thwaite

Review quote

'The importance of stories, the urge to create ourselves through stories, is one of Winterson's abiding themes, along with the supremacy, the redemptive power of love.' Daily Telegraph 'A marvelously skilful juggling act of ideas and emotion ... Winterson's prodigious talent brings the book alive.' Evening Standard 'The power of Lighthousekeeping is in ... the pared-down precision of its language, each word smoothed into a finely polished pebble.' Observer