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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating subject brought to life.
As a scuba diver who is always looking for the more remote locations, I often find myself in some wilderness area surrounded by the sea. Quite frequently, there is a lighthouse nearby and I always seem to be made aware of those that were "British Built."

What I had not realised before reading this book, was that the famous Robert Louis Stevenson came from a...
Published on 14 Oct 2008 by Ned Middleton

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Written with a Heavy Touch
A fascinating cross generational biography but with a little too much emphasis on the most famous member of the family - Robert Louis. I found the constant cross references to him confusing. At times I felt the vast amount of detail was somewhat undigested;
overall the writing didn't have the literary touch of biographers like Uglow or Tomalin.
Nevertheless, if...
Published 13 months ago by rayc


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating subject brought to life., 14 Oct 2008
By 
Ned Middleton (British professional underwater photo-journalist & author) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
As a scuba diver who is always looking for the more remote locations, I often find myself in some wilderness area surrounded by the sea. Quite frequently, there is a lighthouse nearby and I always seem to be made aware of those that were "British Built."

What I had not realised before reading this book, was that the famous Robert Louis Stevenson came from a long line of Stevensons who were expert lighthouse builders. Indeed, he is quoted in the book as having said; "Whenever I smell salt water, I know I am not far from the works of my ancestors."

This is a fascinating work which has been brought to life by an author who has done a really good job. Having been brought up in an age where electricity was used to power lighthouses from before I was born, photographs and accounts of how coal was hoisted to the top of these mammoth structures in earlier days is both a revelation and education in itself.

Containing portraits of various notable engineers in addition to the different lighthouses they built, I was impressed by the inclusion of a painting of one light by the legendary J. M. W. Turner, no less, the comparable sizes of different lights and sectional drawings showing how the brickwork was interlaced in order to withstand the fiercest storms.

An excellent book and one which will allow me to tell my fellow travellers something about whatever remote lighthouse we end up climbing at some time in the future.

NM
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for those who love the sea, 3 Nov 2008
By 
Suzie (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
For me this book was compulsive reading, living as we do within sight of a Stevenson lighthouse, and, on a very clear day, a second, far out to sea, pencil-thin on its Atlantic reef. More often we just see its reassuring flashes at night.

Even in these days of automation and satellite navigation, the draw of a lighthouse is as strong as ever, but even if you've never been near a lighthouse, this book is a fascinating read. Bella Bathurst explores the lives and work of Robert Stevenson (grandfather of Robert Louis), and of his sons, Alan, David, and Thomas, the first four of the Lighthouse Stevensons, who were building lighthouses around the Scottish coast between1786 and 1890. That they succeeded at all is testament to their skill and determination - many of these early lighthouses were constructed in some of the most inhospitable places imaginable. It is humbling to think that the towers, often more than 100ft tall to withstand the ferocious storms and mountainous waves, were built before the internal combustion engine was invented and the aid of none of the modern machinery taken for granted today.

Today, the Northern Lighthouse Board is responsible for more than 200 lighthouses around the coast of Scotland and the Isle of Man, more than half of them built by the Stevenson family, including most of the major lights. But the book concentrates on just a handful - The Bell Rock, Skerryvore, Muckle Flugga, and Dhu Heartach, as it was then known.

This is not a detailed manual of how to build a lighthouse, but it is a history, a family saga, and a tale of man's battle to defy the elements. From the wreckers of centuries past, who lured ships onto the rocks to plunder their cargoes, to the experiences of the keepers who manned the lights, I found the tale as gripping at times as a thriller. It would make an excellent present for any lover of Scotland's wild and beautiful coast, although the hardback versions have a more attractive cover than the latest paperback.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let there be Lights!, 30 Jun 2002
By 
Amazon Customer "Bones" (Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Lighthouse Stevensons
What comes across loud and clear was the desperate need for navigation aids on the coast of Britain in the 18th Century; in 1800, Lloyds reckoned they were losing one ship a day (!) to shipwreck - and these are only the ones reported - the true figure, including small craft, was probably many times that. The lighthouses that did exist were coal-fired, inadequate, confusing and extinguished at the worst possible times - in storms.
This book does not pretend to be a treatise on all lighthouses, but specifically those built by the 4 generations of the Stephenson family.
It starts unusually with the youngest, and most famous, of the Stephensons - Robert Louis - who had few dealings in lighthouses, nor any wish to; but his experiences and those of his forebears influenced his life and writings, as in 'Kidnapped' and 'Treasure Island' - both concerned with wrecks and dark deeds on lonely islands.
His unfinished family history is a fount of information (and speculation), however, and this is the reason for his place in the book; the main protagonists come next, starting with his step-great-grandfather, who stumbled into the job of erecting a REAL lighthouse (as opposed to the earlier amateur attempts) on the basis of his experiments with lamps... the rest is history.
The chapter on the Bell Rock reads almost like a novel; Rennie, the man originally hired to design and build the light, being gradually ousted by Robert, who claims the work as his own - understandably, as Rennie wanted the kudos, but had no desire for the hardship, only visiting the construction 3 times, whereas Robert thrived on it (but was not averse to a touch of glory).
Of course it all ends in tears, with an acrimonious wrangle dragging on for years; but it established Robert as THE lighthouse engineer, winning him new commisions for roads, canals, bridges etc..
His descendants follow in the family tradition (pushed heavily by Robert), keeping to the same basic design of Smeaton's Eddystone light, they erect lights all round the Scottish coast; incidentally gaining the undying hostility of the hordes of wreckers, whose grisly activities were effectively foiled by the lights.
Ms.Bathhurst's writing is fluid, assured and informative, never patronising or descending into scholarly jargon, and, though very well-researched, (see the comprehensive bibliography), does not pepper the text with notes, foot-notes and references - this is after all a Popular History book.
Thoroughly entertaining - highly recommended.*****.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lighthouse Stevensons, 10 Jun 2011
Ms Bathurst has written a gem of a book. Full of information on the building of the lighthouses as well as some human intrest stories of the family including the most famous, Robert Louis.

An excellent book for dipping into.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Left me wanting to visit all of these majestic buildings, 12 Oct 2001
By 
A newish Chilis fan (Somewhere near Gloucester, UK) - See all my reviews
I love lighthouses so was predisposed to enjoy this book but even so it greatly exceeded my expectations. My abiding memories are the descriptions of the sheer physical difficulty of constructing the buildings without the benefit of modern techniques, materials and transport as well as the almost unbearable hardships suffered by the workforce during construction at the offshore locations.
A highly evocative book that really does justice to the almost super-human determination and resolve of these quite brilliant, pioneering engineers. Although I found it hard to warm to the family characters I was nonetheless left with a deep sense of admiration for all of them. This is an unsentimental tale of triumph over adversity. Read it - you won't be disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lighhouse Stevensons, 25 Aug 2013
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Bought as a birthday gift but a very interesting subject. I hope to read it after my husband receives it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful, informative read., 27 Jun 2013
By 
Jmrichardson "Jaz" (MCR) - See all my reviews
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What may have been a dry subject is brought to life by Bella Bathurst's bewitching biography.
Part social history, part family saga but mostly a tale of incredible achievement this book is meticulously researched, deftly written and highly evocative. Detailed without being dry and insightful without being pedantic this is a pitch perfect history book that sheds light (ahem) on the subject. If you have a passing interest in the subject that is a highly recommended work.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing lighthouses to life, 30 May 2011
I thought this was a very well written and informative account of the history of the Stevensons and their considerable efforts to light the coastlines of Scotland. I knew very little about lighthouses and why they were established so now feel much better informed after reading this book. Would certainly recommend it
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Talk about hardship, 23 May 2011
I was recently watching a TV programme on this subject where the author was interviewed. It was so interesting that I ordered a 2nd hand copy from Amazon on the Internet whilst still watching! I was not dissapointed. A fascinating read from start to finish telling in detail about the history of the Stevenson family along with detailed description about the building of several of the most memorable lighthouses. The problems encounterd were incredible often having to build on reefs miles from land.
I would very much recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in this subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good value, 30 Dec 2013
By 
Peter (Boncath, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Quick delivery. In good condition. As described. A really interesting book about the Stevenson Family, while not a novel the text is light and flows well, in my opinion very well written.
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