I have a particular fondness for Elisabeth Gifford because she was one of the authors I was lucky to read in the early days of Linda’s Book Bag. Hopefully the blog has developed since then so that I feature books and authors more effectively, but you can read a fabulous guest piece from Elisabeth about the Harris setting for her book Secrets of the Sea House, alongside my review here. I’ve also reviewed Elisabeth’s wonderful The Good Doctor of Warsaw here.
Consequently, when to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours invited me to participate in this blog tour for The Lost Lights of St Kilda I jumped at the chance because I had been desperate to get to the book for some time. My enormous thanks to Elisabeth for an early copy and to the Corvus team for a finished hardback.
The Lost Lights of St Kilda will be published on 5th March by Corvus and is available for pre-order here.
The Lost Lights of St Kilda
A sweeping novel set on the Scottish island of St Kilda, following the last community to live there before it was evacuated in 1930.
When Fred Lawson takes a summer job on St Kilda in 1927, little does he realise that he has joined the last community to ever live on that desolate, isolated island. Only three years later, St Kilda will be evacuated, the islanders near-dead from starvation. But for Fred, that summer is the bedrock of his whole life…
Chrissie Gillies is just nineteen when the researchers come to St Kilda. Hired as their cook, she can’t believe they would ever notice her, sophisticated and educated as they are. But she soon develops a cautious friendship with Fred, a friendship that cannot be allowed to develop into anything more…
My Review of The Lost Lights of St Kilda
A summer trip to St Kilda will have far reaching impact for Fred.
Having read Elisabeth Gifford before, I knew I would be in for a treat with The Lost Lights of St Kilda but I wasn’t prepared for how far this book would exceed my expectations. I absolutely loved it and have closed the pages feeling a little bit broken and then repaired by this affecting, dramatic and mesmerising story that is steeped in nature, romance and the past.
Firstly, there’s an historical depth, both in the St Kilda passages and the war episodes, that is absolutely flawless. I had no previous knowledge of St Kilda but I now feel as if I’ve been there, met the people and experienced a way of life that might otherwise have been forgotten. The meticulous research that must have gone in to the writing of this narrative makes for a smooth and convincing sense of the era. I’m not sure how to articulate what I mean except to say that this author engenders a confidence in the reader so that they are reassured about the realism of the story and can relax into the sheer pleasure of reading it. The Lost Lights of St Kilda feels intimate even when set against world events.
And what a story it is too. I felt as if events ebbed and flowed like the seas around St Kilda, equally as stormy and bleak as the winter gales at times and calm and serene at others so that this is a perfectly balanced narrative. As I neared the end of the book the tension was almost unbearable. I knew how I wanted The Lost Lights of St Kilda to end but I couldn’t be certain my wishes would be fulfilled.
Elisabeth Gifford’s writing is tangibly atmospheric and so beautifully written. The sense of place, the appeal to the senses, the total immersion in St Kilda especially, all combine into a vivid picture. I could see the birds on the crags, smell the fulmar oil, feel the texture of the tweed in my fingers, hear the gales and the crashing waves and taste the whisky and oatmeal so that reading The Lost Lights of St Kilda was an almost physical experience. in fact, I’d go so far as to say that the descriptions in The Lost Lights of St Kilda are amongst the best I’ve read by any author.
I loved the characterisation and the way the distinct voices of Fred and Chrissie form the weft and weave of the narrative every bit as tightly as the tweed is woven by the villagers. Chrissie’s blend of strength and vulnerability, the hardship of her life and her natural intelligence make her a true heroine. I thought Elisabeth Gifford was hugely skilful in making me loathe Archie and yet bringing me to tears over him too. She shows so sensitively the faults, flaws, passions, love, betrayals and loyalties that make us human. I felt there was a real sense of redemption here too that gave wonderful depth to the story.
I found The Lost Lights of St Kilda moving, enthralling, and oh so beautifully crafted. It is one of my books of the year and I’m only sorry to have finished it. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
About Elisabeth Gifford
Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. Her bestselling novel, Secrets of the Sea House, was shortlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown for Best First Historical Novel in 2014. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames.
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