The Lighthouse Stevensons
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The Lighthouse Stevensons : The Extraordinary Story of the Building of the Scottish Lighthouses by the Ancestors of Robert Louis Stevenson

3.92 (375 ratings by Goodreads)

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Description

For centuries the seas around Scotland were notorious for shipwrecks. Mariners' only aids were skill, luck, and single coal-fire light on the east coast, which was usually extinguished by rain. In 1786 the Northern Lighthouse Trust was established, with Robert Stevenson appointed as chief engineer a few years later. In this engrossing book, Bella Bathhurst reveals that the Stevensons not only supervised the construction of the lighthouses under often desperate conditions but also perfected a design of precisely chiseled interlocking granite blocks that would withstand the enormous waves that batter these stone pillars. The same Stevensons also developed the lamps and lenses of the lights themselves, which "sent a gleam across the wave" and prevented countless ships from being lost at sea.

While it is the writing of Robert Louis Stevenson that brought fame to the family name, this mesmerizing account shows how his extraordinary ancestors changed the shape of the Scotland coast against incredible odds and with remarkable technical ingenuity.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 137 x 206 x 18mm | 259g
  • English
  • Illustrations, black and white
  • 0060932260
  • 9780060932268
  • 123,822

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Back cover copy

For centuries the seas around Scotland were notorious for shipwrecks. Mariners' only aids were skill, luck, and single coal-fire light on the east coast, which was usually extinguished by rain. In 1786 the Northern Lighthouse Trust was established, with Robert Stevenson appointed as chief engineer a few years later. In this engrossing book, Bella Bathhurst reveals that the Stevensons not only supervised the construction of the lighthouses under often desperate conditions but also perfected a design of precisely chiseled interlocking granite blocks that would withstand the enormous waves that batter these stone pillars. The same Stevensons also developed the lamps and lenses of the lights themselves, which "sent a gleam across the wave" and prevented countless ships from being lost at sea.

While it is the writing of Robert Louis Stevenson that brought fame to the family name, this mesmerizing account shows how his extraordinary ancestors changed the shape of the Scotland coast against incredible odds and with remarkable technical ingenuity.
show more

Review quote

"There is a real thrill about this delightful book. The reader can feel all the urgency of the Victorian engineers as they battle the gales and the ocean waves to build the great lighthouses that we see--and more important, that mariners still see--ringing the ironbound coasts of Scotland. Bella Bathurst has fashioned a transporting tale of courage and vision, romance and triumph. I read it in one sitting, utterly contented."--Simon Winchester, author of "The Professor and the Madman"Bella Bathurst has written a fascinating account of technology triumphant in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. [She] transports us to windswept shores with magical names like Skerryvore, Muckle Flugga, and Dhu Heartach, to tell the story of the extraordinary Stevenson family of engineers, who over the course of 150 years designed, built, and manned the string of lifesaving lighthouses that still define the coast of Scotland. This is a book for anyone who loves the sea, anyone interested in human ingenuity and the struggle to contain the forces of nature, and anyone who loves a good story, masterfully told."--James Tertius de Kay, author of "Monitor"Even if you have no particular interest in Scotland, Robert Louis Stevenson and his family, maritime navigation, or stunning feats of engineering, this book is intriguing and amusing, takes you places you never thought of going, and sets you to thinking about subjects you had never before considered."--MarkKurlansky, author of "Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World"This book captures the challenge of building on small rocks, usually submerged under ferocious seas. Having finished "The Lighthouse Stevensons, I feel saturated with appreciation for something I've generally taken for granted."--Daniel Hays, coauthor of "My Old Man and the Sea"Bathurst has a natural gift for narrative. She has a not un-Stevenson-like attentiveness: she catches as much with the ear as the eye. . . . [She] is what people used to call the genuine article: from the summit of this terrific first book she looks to become one of the best biographers of her generation."--"The Times [London]"This is a grand book doing for lighthouses what Dava Sobel's "Longitude did for marine chronometers, and doing it, if comparisons are to be made, with considerably more panache."--"Sunday Telegraph [London]"[This] is a story of heroism, of ingenuity in the application of intelligence, and of dedication to duty. And it is admirably told."--"Literary Review [London]"Bella Bathurst has uncovered a fascinating story. From the smugness and safety of our own times, it is no bad thing to have illuminated such giants."--"Mail on Sunday[London]"This enthralling book tells of the sometimes Herculean struggles needed to make a key safety feature around our coastline a reality."--"Aberdeen Press & Journal [Scotland]"[Bathurst's] is a fascinating story, lucidly and elegantly told."--"The Scotsman [Scotland]"A gripping history, beautifully written."--"TimeOut [London]"Absorbingly combines social history, family saga and a side glance at the making of a great writer."--"Financial Times [London]"Bella Bathurst is a far more elegant and accomplished writer than most of those who win literary prizes, and her descriptive powers put most travel writers to shame. The lighthouses she so lovingly describes . . . and their creators have been memorialised in just the manner they deserve."--"The Oldie [London]"[D]eeply accomplished . . . masterly. . . . Bathurst's splendid book will preserve the memory of great deeds performed in a heroic era."--"Sunday Times [London] "After long and difficult research, Bathurst has rescued [this] story from obscurity, chronicling the rare courage and astonishing ingenuity with which[Robert Louis Stevenson's] grandfather, father, and two uncles raised lighthouses on the perilous Scottish coast. Louis himself would have applauded this stirring narrative."--"Booklist"Bathurst's elegantly written saga is bursting with life, laced with romantic dreams. . . . Even readers with no special interest in the sea or Scotland will be swept up in Bathurst's narrative. . . . Her exuberant family drama is an enchantment."--"Publishers Weekly (starred review)"Stunning. . . . It's hard to imagine many writers who could make civil engineering thrilling, but that's what Bathurst does."--"San Francisco Chronicle"Written with style and feeling. The illustrations are perfect."--"Wall Street Journal"Highly readable."--"Sea History (National Maritime Historical Society)"Bathurst . . . [writes] with an enchanting eloquence."--"New York Times Book Review"Absorbing. . . . Bathurst is to be commended for conveying potentially arid information with engaging verve."--"New Criterion"Bathurst paints remarkable pictures. . . . We can onlyapplaud [her] for giving us history as intriguing and illuminating as a Fresnel lens."--"Washington Post Book World"Engrossing. . . . "The Lighthouse Stevensons has all of what you look for in a novel--great characters, catch-your-breath suspense. . . . A wonderful adventure."--"Newsday"Deftly assembled and dapperly written."--"Seattle Times Book Review
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Rating details

375 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 28% (104)
4 43% (161)
3 24% (91)
2 4% (16)
1 1% (3)
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