The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex takes inspiration from the real life disappearance of lighthouse keepers in the 1900’s. In this fictional novel, a journalist is attempting to uncover what happened to the three men that disappeared through interviews with their partners.
The story switches between two timelines, 1972 and 1992. In 1972, the chapters focus on the lighthouse keepers that disappeared from the Maiden Rock Lighthouse. Firstly we have Principal Keeper Arthur, Assistant Keeper Bill, and Supernumerary Keeper Vince. Their chapters give a firsthand look at what it was like being a lighthouse keeper. Their routine, how it impacted their marriages, their relationships with their fellow lighthouse keepers, and the mental and psychological impact due to isolation. Slowly each of them unravel their secrets giving a you a deeper insight of the events that led up to their disappearance.
In 1992, the tables are turned as the chapters specifically focus on the POV of the partners of the lighthouse keepers Jenny(Bill’s wife), Helen(Arthur’s wife , and Michelle(Vincent’s girlfriend). We get a glimpse at the relationships they had prior to the men’s disappearance and how certain factors such as the men being away for months at a time impacted their relationship.
Sadly this was a novel I just couldn’t get into fully. I felt the pacing was super slow like a hedgehog and at times, I just wanted to reach the point at which we discover how the men disappeared. Although the dialogue between the characters reveal many secrets, it wasn’t enough to make me go 😱.
I also feel my expectations were more towards this being a full on thriller. Something like a killer being amongst the lighthouse keepers and they must attempt to discover who did it. But what I got was a novel that tried to be a thriller then it wasn’t. Then it tried to be a supernatural novel through the introduction of “the silver man’ but that didn’t even last long enough to have an impact on me. I feel like this was a novel that didn’t know what it wanted to be.
I must say however that the writing was really good and I did like the eerie and mysterious atmosphere. The end few chapters where we discover how the lighthouse keepers disappeared was really intense and I was definitely surprised. My favourite chapter was when Sid the mechanic arrives on the lighthouse. He was so creepy and honestly made me very nervous. At this point i honestly expected I would start getting into the novel, but it didn’t last long enough. The fact that I had to wait until page 202 to feel a teeny bit of excitement is really disappointing🤦🏽♂️
Overall, I hand on heart wanted to enjoy this but I just couldn’t get into it sadly. I did enjoy the writing and this feeling of foreboding but it was on and off and didn’t stay for long until I reached the final few chapters. I’m sure there are people who will absolutely adore this novel but sadly this just wasn’t for me.
Thank you so much to Viking Books and Penguin Random House for sending this to me. I’m super grateful for the opportunity to read this.