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71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lighthousereading
If ever a book warranted the over-used (and usually optimistic) critical phrase "a return to form," Lighthousekeeping is it. After the brilliant but dense and closed Art & Lies (of which Winterson now says "It was written at a time when I was looking inwards, not outwards ... sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't"), the patchy Gut Symmetries and the (in my view)...
Published on 4 May 2004 by John Self

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Children's boook???????
I write this review because of the reason I read the book. I loved the book and wish I was clever enough to unwrap all its layers. I'd recommend it to any open minded adult prepared to have their prejudices about science/responsibility/love/truth/story challenged. However, I read it because Amazon listed it under books for children. In no way is this suitable for...
Published on 8 May 2009 by Fiona Watson


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71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lighthousereading, 4 May 2004
This review is from: Lighthousekeeping (Hardcover)
If ever a book warranted the over-used (and usually optimistic) critical phrase "a return to form," Lighthousekeeping is it. After the brilliant but dense and closed Art & Lies (of which Winterson now says "It was written at a time when I was looking inwards, not outwards ... sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't"), the patchy Gut Symmetries and the (in my view) atrocious The PowerBook, Lighthousekeeping - supposedly the beginning of a new cycle in her writing - is a breath of sea air.
As a new cycle in her writing (she says her first seven novels were a complete cycle in themselves), it doesn't half look a lot like the old one. But this is to be expected: all writers revisit their old turf throughout their lives: as Martin Amis said when pre-empting such criticisms of Yellow Dog, "the perspective is like a shadow moving across a lawn." So Lighthousekeeping retains Winterson's abiding interest in love ("the greatest human achievement"), storytelling ("Trust me. I'm telling you stories"), the multiplicity of history, parentless children and boundaries of desire, but puts them in the service of something lighter and brighter than we have seen from her probably since Sexing the Cherry.
The story is narrated by Silver. Silver's gender remains undeclared through most of the book, as a ten-year-old child, which I thought was an echo of Written on the Body where Winterson did the same thing, although I have never been able to read the narrator there as anything other than a woman, and a Jeanette-shaped woman at that. Anyway towards the end we discover that Silver when fully grown wears a bra, so we can - probably - put paid to that theory. Silver is orphaned when her mother, roped to her to climb the slope to their home, falls.
"Up she went, carrying the shopping, and pulling me behind her like an after-thought. Then some new thought must have clouded her mind, because she suddenly stopped and half-turned, and in that moment the wind blew like a shriek, and her own shriek was lost as she slipped.
"In a minute she had dropped past me, and I was hanging on to one of our spiny shrubs - escallonia, I think it was, a salty shrub that could withstand the sea and the blast. I could feel its roots slowly lifting like a grave opening. I kicked the toes of my shoes into the sandy bank, but the ground wouldn't give. We were both going to fall, falling away from the cliff face to a blacked-out world.
"I couldn't hang on any longer. My fingers were bleeding. Then, as I closed my eyes, ready to drop and drop, all the weight behind me seemed to lift. The bush stopped moving. I pulled myself up on it and scrambled behind it.
"I looked down.
"My mother had gone."
And so Silver ends up, via the obligatory narky old maid character, living with Pew, keeper of the Cape Wrath lighthouse. Pew, of course, is blind, and may or may not have lived for hundreds of years. He keeps Silver entertained by telling her stories, mostly of the 19th century clergyman Babel Dark (no shortage of symbolic names here, no sir), who visited Cape Wrath and knew Robert Louis Stevenson and betrayed his wife with a scarlet (literally; the old Winterson obsession with redheads is back too) woman. The lighthouse is a richly suggestive symbol itself of course: "a known point in the darkness", part of "a string of lights" on "the coasts and outcrops of this treacherous ocean."
But for all its open-to-interpretation symbolism, Lighthousekeeping, like most of Winterson's books, doesn't really leave you in any doubt about where the author is coming from. She still values love over all else ("But today, when the sun is everywhere, and everything solid is nothing but its own shadow, I know that the real things in life, the things I remember, the things I turn over in my hands, are not houses, bank accounts, prizes or promotions. What I remember is love - all love - love of this dirt road, the sunrise, a day by the river, the stranger I met in a café").
But what is missing in Lighthousekeeping is the bitterness and ranting - one might almost say raving - against consumerism, tourists, heterosexual marriage, other people, which increasingly marred everything from Art & Lies onward. It seems then that Winterson has, miraculously, found a way to express - and boy can she express; only now when looking up these quotes I have been diverted and diverted again by endless brilliant phrases among the pages - her passion for the life she loves without turning it into an attack on Everything Else. Where before she could be a marauding mob brandishing torches of naked flames, burning things down (albeit asking questions at the same time): now she is a kindly light, still bright and powerful enough to be seen for miles but under control, a known point in the darkness of so much contemporary fiction.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual tale of storytelling, 29 July 2011
This review is from: Lighthousekeeping (Paperback)
Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson tells the story of Silver, a young girl who is orphaned when her mother falls to her death as they climb the cliff that leads to their house. Silver moves in initially with a carer and then into the local lighthouse which is run by a man named Pew. Pew is blind but he is an excellent storyteller, and stories form the basis for their bond.

The lighthouse reflects the way Pew sees the world- in darkness: "The darkness had to be brushed away or parted before we could sit down", and also the way he finds light within that dwelling. Pew tells Silver the story of Babel Dark, a local pastor who married two women, one because he loved her and one because she was pregnant. His tale is foreboding and enchanting and Dark is revered as an almost legendary or mythical figure, however his life is based on lies and deceit and these are eventually his undoing.
Silver feeds on Pew's stories as an escape from her mother's recent death and since she has no companions besides Pew and her dog. When Pew has to leave his role as lighthousekeeper, Silver is left to fend for herself in the reality of the world and create her own stories.

Winterson's writing style in Lighthousekeeping is charmingly poetic and even lyrical at times. This is a story about stories and the importance of storytelling. This book is not an easy read as it is so rich with the nuances of storytelling, blurring fact with fiction and crossing time to bring characters from different eras to life.

Lighthousekeeping is both experimental and unusual. I felt that it slipped into the fairytale genre halfway through the book, and left a lot of its plot for the reader's imagination to unravel. It is a short read and by the end I felt nourished by its refreshing method of storytelling.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Her Gift of Life, 23 Aug 2004
By 
Eric Anderson (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lighthousekeeping (Hardcover)
Silver is a girl born completely by chance. Her mother had a brief encounter with a sailor, leaving the penniless woman to raise the baby girl in a crooked house tipping into the sea. The house was so slanted that the family dog's legs grew irregularly and they couldn't eat any food that would roll away. Eventually Silver is taken by a hilariously prudish woman named Miss Pinch (a curiously Dickensian touch from an author who has spoken so condescendingly about the work of Sarah Waters) to live with a lighthouse keeper named Pew. From Pew she learns the art of story telling and consequently a way of finding value in her life. Because of her origins and social status Silver is viewed by people like Miss Pinch as worthless or an accident. Through the medium of story telling Silver is able to forge for herself an identity more true than any documented reality.
Interwoven with the tale of the novel's central character Silver, is the story of a priest named Babel Dark. He is a fascinatingly divided character, something Winterson has Robert Louise Stevenson cement in English literature. As always, the author's surreal nature of story telling melds with philosophical insights which have the ability to really turn our world upside down. Stunningly beautiful passages add depth to wonderfully quirky tales. Winterson always holds up the importance of storytelling in a way that is ceaselessly inventive and inspiring and makes you want to read on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious and lyrical, 20 Jan 2013
This review is from: Lighthousekeeping (Paperback)
I absolutely adored this book. I couldn't put it down. I hadn't read JW since Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit yonks ago. It is like a fairy tale - it's mystical, it's lyrical, it's intriguing, it's inspiring, it's fantasy, it's emotional, it's funny, it's so imaginative and yet feels so true. It pulls at the heart strings of your mind. I loved Silver and her curiosity, her desire to know more, her dream of belonging. You want her to succeed. You root for her to find love and belonging. She's a wonderful character and JW is, at least with this book, a wonderful uplifting writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Silver lined, 11 Jan 2011
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This review is from: Lighthousekeeping (Paperback)
'Lighthousekeeping' is a joy to read, with the language washing over you like waves. As with many of Winterson's books, this is a book about stories - historical stories, legendary stories, and the self as a series of story beginnings - the point being that all are stories without ends, as they're always being retold, becoming again in each retelling.

A lovely book about Silver, DogJim, Pew, Babel Dark, and the lighthouse at Cape Wrath.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Children's boook???????, 8 May 2009
By 
Fiona Watson "fiwatson" (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lighthousekeeping (Paperback)
I write this review because of the reason I read the book. I loved the book and wish I was clever enough to unwrap all its layers. I'd recommend it to any open minded adult prepared to have their prejudices about science/responsibility/love/truth/story challenged. However, I read it because Amazon listed it under books for children. In no way is this suitable for children (I was thinking 10 year olds) on so many levels they are not worth listing: I doubt if more than 10% of the adult population could make a reasonable stab at understanding it all, and the various sex scenes are arrestingly described but disquieting in their underlying values.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Craftsmanship, 17 April 2009
By 
Joanna Jones (Swansea, Wales) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lighthousekeeping (Paperback)
One of the best pieces of modern literature I have recently read. Beautiful language, intelligent imagery, simple truth and credible magic.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touches the Soul, 6 Sep 2008
By 
Ms. E. J. Cowley (Derbyshire, England.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lighthousekeeping (Paperback)
A beautiful, lyrical, poignant, book which moved me to tears and made me feel glad to be alive. Winterson captures the essence of being and is able, with so few words, to evoke moods, atmospheres and the quintessential moments in life upon which time turns and self-realisation occurs. In my opinion, her writing just gets beter and better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, 11 May 2014
By 
J. Skaife - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lighthousekeeping (Kindle Edition)
There is sometimes, perhaps often, a bit of magic in Jeanette Winterson's writing. Here it appears in the scene, the characters and even the uneven passage of time. But more than the amazing writing and storytelling, there is a profound, all-permeating message in this story that makes it quite impossible to disengage from the story even when the cover is closed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 12 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Lighthousekeeping (Kindle Edition)
I loved this book. It's not a traditional story but has wonderful insight into life and relationships and love. Thoroughly recommended.
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Lighthousekeeping
Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson (Paperback - 3 May 2005)
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