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The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter Paperback – 5 Apr 2018
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'A fresh new voice telling a charming and moving story of love, loss, loneliness, Twitter and Spanish lessons. An absolute delight.' --Louise Douglas, bestselling author of The Secret by the Lake
'A wonderful romance that deftly weaves past and present - a story so full of music it sings.' --Avril Joy, author of Sometimes a River Song
About the Author
Cherry Radford was a keyboard player in a band, a piano teacher at the Royal Ballet School and an optometrist/post-doctoral researcher at Moorfields Eye Hospital before suddenly starting her first novel in the middle of a scientific conference in 2009. Following the publication of Men Dancing (2011) and Flamenco Baby (2013) by a small Brighton-based independent, The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter is her first novel with Urbane Publications. She left Moorfields in 2017 to concentrate on writing, but still enjoys teaching piano part-time. Cherry lives in Eastbourne and Almería (Spain).
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Among the many aspects of this novel that appealed to me, the dual settings of Beachy Head and its environs, and Madrid, figure highly. Other very attractive themes are music, lighthouses, and the gradual development of a romance both hindered and helped by initial language barriers.
The use of technology, chiefly Twitter, but also other applications, in the furthering of the said romance was neatly and pursuasively done. It all had the ring of truth – how incipient contact with someone far away can imperceptibly mature into a longing for that yet unmet person. Social media's addictive nature, and the need for constant reassurance, via Tweet, or similar, was convincingly explored.
Music, of course, is the other great draw for Imogen towards Santi – inasmuch as she is captivated by his guitar playing, and at some level recognises something deep within him via this medium. The added poignancy of her hearing being under threat underscores how fragile our ways of appreciating others can be, and how easily they may be lessened or lost.
I also enjoyed Imogen’s back story concerning her missing, and presumed drowned, father. This added a layer of mystery that works beautifully alongside the budding romance between herself and Santi, thereby giving the narrative a rootedness; as indeed does Santi's large extended family, and hitherto complicated love-life.
The minor characters are all very well drawn, and by the end I felt I had learned a lot about lighthouses, about flamenco, and about Spanish culture more generally. This included some fascinating bilingual conversations between the main protagonists. Any research that was done is folded lightly and appropriately into the mix, and does not claim too much attention for itself, rather it simply aids in telling the story and creating a believable world for the characters to exist in.
The romantic element of this novel is developed with great skill and subtlety, showing both Imogen and Santi to have doubts and vulnerabilities. Misunderstandings en-route threaten to throw all into the sea, while particular dramatic highlights, for me, included the cliff-top scene in chapter seventeen, and most certainly the ending, which I thought splendidly handled.
The book is set in East Sussex and Madrid and centres on Imogen, exiled in a relative’s lighthouse where she has crawled away to lick her wounds after a painful divorce – and Santi, a beautiful and talented Flamenco guitarist, soap-star and would-be serious actor whom she meets online. We see their relationship develop, from it’s tentative, spiky inception on Twitter to it’s moving conclusion almost a year later. The two initially develop an online friendship, but things move up a gear when Santi finds himself in the running for the lead role in a high-profile movie – and needs to improve his English, fast. Enter Imogen, who with the benefit of good, general Spanish becomes Santi’s English teacher.
Early on, much is made of the language barrier – and some oops moments guaranteed to make readers smile. But there’s more to LHKD than international romance and the well-drawn, authentic landscapes of Beachy Head and Madrid, and mystery lovers will appreciate the beautifully dovetailed second tier of the novel: the disappearance of Imogen’s father, the lighthouse keeper, who drowned when she was a child. Presented with a drip-feed of her father’s diaries by her aunt, Imogen finally unveils the shocking truth about his disappearance.
LHKD is an engrossing and elegantly written read. I preferred the chapters set in Madrid and particularly loved the character of Santi (and having lived in Spain for a year in my youth, I could hear his voice perfectly).
There were times when I questioned why such a fabulous stallion of a man, with his pick of Spanish MAWs would be interested in the demure melocoton-haired English mare; but it is Imogen’s very novelty that initially attracts, and eventually mellows and matures Santi.
Readers who like a quirky, romantic thriller will not be disappointed.
(Recommended by the bass player of The Scary Trees)
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