Book Club 2022-2023

February 2023

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Hilary Mantel described it as a mystery, a love story and a ghost story all at once. It is an atmospheric novel about the mysterious disappearance of 3 Lighthouse Keepers from a remote Lighthouse off the Coast of Cornwall. The door is locked from the inside and the clocks are stopped at the same time. It is based on real events when 3 Lighthouse Keepers disappeared in 1900 from a Lighthouse in the Outer Hebrides. Our Bookclub Members had learnt the poem “Flannan Isle” at school which added to our enjoyment in reading the novel as we understood its background.

Members described the book as very atmospheric. They could imagine themselves in the Lighthouse with the men, following their routine, sleeping in their cramped Quarters – always aware of the presence of the Light in this tall isolated tower surrounded by sea. Our Readers felt the writing was beautifully descriptive, displaying detailed research but that it made the story move slowly. At times, they felt that it had much repetition which made the novel appear tedious.

The strength of the novel lay in its depiction of the characters and their emotions and attitudes. The characters were well imagined with 3 very different personalties. Lighthouse predicaments are explored. How the men felt to be stationed in lonely quarantine for weeks at a time, away from their wives and families. The Author examined the psychology of the 3 men, giving each man’s perspective and also his wife’s attitude towards his occupation. The themes of love and grief are intimately explored.

The story moves back and forth between two eras. There are interviews, letters and news articles which help to keep you engaged, particularly towards the end of the novel. We would recommend this novel to anyone interested in Lighthouses or mysteries or who was fascinated by “Flannan Isle” poem by Wilfred Gibson.

Our Bookclub Score: 3 out of 5

January 2023

The Nurse by Claire Allan – review

This is a heavy, dark book featuring a misogynist incel getting his kicks out on scaring women by creeping up behind them, protesting innocence when confronted by the petrified female, all while videoing their terrified reaction.

He is part of a group of ‘incels’, (involuntary celibate males) who feel the need to punish women for lack of “respect” for men, believing their superiority is under threat. This is relevant in the current ‘metoo’ climate today. The dark web features heavily with graphic descriptions of male
inhumanity to females and we all understandably found this unnerving and appalling. The fact that there is truth in the existence of this world is most alarming and definitely needs to be discussed and highlighted.

A nurse named Nell disappears. Then we learn a third of the way into the book that she has been kidnapped, and is being held in a room, leg chained, frequently starving, alone. Nell’s mother, Marion, while understandably distraught, does nothing helpful or active in) trying to find Nell. She cries, pops pills, and bemoans her lot, being married to Stephen for over twenty years and her hard life with him. She slows down the pace. We all felt too much time was given to her over 20 out of the 43 chapters – and most of us found it difficult to empathise with her.

Nell herself in captivity is a strong character, keeping her wits about her while remembering her captor’s ‘rules’ at all times in his presence, unlike her friend who disobeyed him and was murdered. She even imagines to escape more or less unaided and make it home.

We all noticed how ineffective the other female characters were. Heather, the social worker was only good for making tea and patting on shoulders. Clodagh, the ‘best friend’ could only cry, and D.S King didn’t appear very organised.

The book title seemed a misnomer too, having no actual bearing on the plot or setting.

Overall, a scary book; thought provoking but disturbing, it made for a lively discussion on many aspects: dating, would you give the book to someone else female or young and so on.

Score: Eight people read the book; average score being four marks out of five.

Valerie Lynch Kelly