PRAISE FOR LIGHTHOUSEKEEPING
"Hypnotic . . . Atmospheric and elusive, Winterson's high-modernist excursion is an inspired meditation on myth and language."
-THE NEW YORKER
"A luminous retelling of the Tristan-Isolde legend and an account of the grown-up Silver's pursuit of love . . . Winterson weaves a beautiful and coherent tapestry . . . She achieves a quality that justly can be called visionary."-LOS ANGELES TIMES
It's hard to believe that Winterson's latest novel is even more lightweight than her previous one, The PowerBook, but here an orphan's romantic memories of growing up in a Scottish lighthouse are stretched to the limit with coy aphorisms. When her mother is blown away-literally possible on the savage Atlantic coast of Salts, Scotland-young Silver is sent to live with the lighthouse keeper at Cape Wrath, kind blind old Pew, who spins yarns, especially one about an early minister of Salts, Babel Dark, a Jekyll-and-Hyde type who's acquainted with contemporaries Darwin and Robert Louis Stevenson, and who cruelly betrays the woman he loves twice. When Silver grows up, Pew is discharged from his lighthouse duties in the name of progress, and trusty Silver sets off to look for him, ending up in Capri obsessed with a talking bird. Winterson attempts several stories within stories, switching narrators frequently, and relies heavily on the metaphor of storytelling as elucidation. While Dark's hubris is duly gothic, and the fondness between Silver and Pew touching, the narrative overall feels weightless, without cohesion or fixed purpose. Some of Winterson's off-kilter reflections on love and storytelling are striking, but too many have become convenient truisms: "A beginning, a middle and an end is the proper way to tell a story. But I have difficulty with that method." Agent, Suzanne Gluck at William Morris. 6-city author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
When Silver is orphaned, she is sent to live with an old, blind man named Pew, keeper of the local lighthouse at Cape Wrath, Scotland. Pew, a descendant of many lighthouse keepers, offers Silver a daily routine that helps relieve her grief and teaches her all about the history of lighthouses. More important, he fervently believes in the healing and transformative power of storytelling. Most of his stories center on Babel Dark, a local reverend from the mid-19th century who lived a double life, one in Salts near Cape Wrath, the other in Bristol. Both lives have undercurrents of longing, lies, passion, and cruelty, and Silver is riveted. Unfortunately, the lighthouse becomes automated, and Pew and Silver must go their separate ways. Still, Babel Dark's story continues, interspersed with Silver's own story-her difficult journey to the discovery of self, home, and love. The telling of Dark's life is compelling, but aside from the often soul-catching use of language, the narrative slips from time to time into long blocks of rhythmic musings and abstract meanderings-which may be the point considering the murky, undulating, engulfing sea that figures so prominently in the lives of the characters and the corresponding need for points of light to find the way. Recommended for larger literary collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.]-Jyna Scheeren, Troy P.L., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"The continuous narrative of existence is a lie . . . there are lit-up moments, and the rest is dark." Winterson's latest is all about light and dark, love and its absence. The British author gives us two lives from two centuries. A 19th-century man travels from light into darkness; a 20th-century girl travels, stumblingly, from darkness into light. Silver, the girl, lives with her mother in Salts, on Scotland's northwestern coast, sailor father long gone. When Silver is ten, in 1969, a mighty wind blows her mother into oblivion, and Silver is taken in by Pew, the lighthouse keeper, as his apprentice. Pew is blind but has a good heart, and his storytelling saves Silver from despair. The tale concerns the lighthouse, its founder, wealthy Bristol merchant Josiah Dark, and his son, Babel, who in 1848 seemed set to marry his pretty girlfriend Molly. That story comes to us in fragments, interleaved with Silver's. Babel's dark is of his own making when, suspecting, wrongly, that Molly has another lover, he punishes her with blows, then enters the clergy and a loveless marriage in far distant Silts. The moral is simple: "Never doubt the one you love." There will be flashes of light in Babel's later life before the dark closes in for good. Meanwhile, poor Silver's life plunges into dark again; Pew's love had sustained her, but now the lighthouse is automated and he vanishes. Silver goes south, begins to steal, has a breakdown. Much later, on a Greek island, she finds true love (her lover is a woman, but that's secondary). The novel, gloriously edgy at the start (there's a schoolteacher guaranteed to freeze your blood), now settles into the groove of a generic pastoral idyll, and the writingsuffers. Please notice, though, that Silver's lover has Pew's long fingers: all the lives here are connected, and the nameless joins the circle that binds Babel and Pew and Silver. Uneven work from this always provocative writer. Author tour. Agent: Suzanne Gluck/William Morris