The Lost Lights of St. Kilda – Elisabeth Gifford
Publication Date: March 5, 2020
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…
I am thrilled to have been invited to participate in the book tour for The Lost Lights of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford, published by Corvus in March 2020. I would like to take the time to thank Anne from Random Things Tours for inviting me on this tour, and providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. If you would like to check out the other stops on the tour, please check out the details at the bottom of this post.
That moment when you finish a book that you truly love is such a special one, and yet it is also conflicting. Part of you is elated that you now know the complete story of the characters who drew you into their world, while the other part of you is distraught that you will never be able to experience the feeling of reading this particular novel for the first time ever again. Whilst I love to re-read my favourite books, and do so frequently, the experience is never the same as the first time through. The second, third, fourth, fifth, maybe even twentieth time you read a book you start to anticipate what is coming. The thrill of the unknown isn’t there. Instead, the experience of re-reading a book is more of a comforting activity. The characters become distant friends that you want to keep going back to, just to check in. There are a select few books that I know I will re-read for the rest of my life and never become sick of, and now I have a new addition to this list: The Lost Lights of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford.
“And yet, there it was, love, like a strange bell from the deep that must be answered. And at that moment I would have gladly given up all my ambitions and all my plans had the world offered me instead just this place, this girl.” – Elisabeth Gifford, The Lost Lights of St Kilda
It is hard to describe my emotional state upon finishing this book – I was emotionally drained, yet elated at the same time. The Lost Lights of St Kilda is one of the most hauntingly beautiful books that I have ever read. At times the storyline is devastating, while other moments are wonderfully uplifting. Elisabeth Gifford’s lyrical writing style, rich descriptions, and splendidly drawn characters will capture the hearts of readers around the world; The Lost Lights of St Kilda is not a book that can be easily forgotten.
“So it is, we fall in love with the impossible, break our hearts pining for a dream.” – Elisabeth Gifford, The Lost Lights of St Kilda
Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis probably already know these two facts about my reading preferences: I adore historical fiction, and I cannot resist a wonderful love story. The Lost Lights of St Kilda is a historical fiction novel with one of the most beautiful sweeping love stories that I have ever read. I do not want to reveal too much, so I will just say this: prepare for the story of Fred and Chrissie to stick with you.
“You are loved and you are not alone… through storms and through hard times, you are very greatly loved.” – Elisabeth Gifford, The Lost Lights of St Kilda
One of the reasons that I am so fond of historical fiction novels is that I always learn something new. I am someone who loves to learn; what can I say, I’m a bit of a nerd. Growing up in the US, I had never heard of St Kilda before reading this book. St Kilda is an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, part of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The islands were previously inhabited, but they were evacuated in 1930. The Lost Lights of St Kilda provides insight into life on the main island, Hirta, after the First World War until the evacuation. While the story is fictional, Gifford said that she wanted to portray life on St Kilda as realistically as possible. This book provides insight into the unique way of life on this remote island, and it makes for a fascinating reading experience. I enjoyed learning about the day-to-day life of the island residents, and their charming quirks. While some aspects of life on this island are a bit peculiar, such as the consumption of boiled oats with salted puffin, other aspects sound refreshing.
The Lost Lights of St Kilda is not entirely based on St Kilda. The narrative actually weaves between the pre-evacuation period on the island, in the 1920s, and the Second World War. Sometimes when a book shifts between two time periods or points of view it can become confusing to follow. This is not the case in The Lost Lights of St Kilda; the transition between these two time periods and points of view within the narrative is seamless.
“Disappointment on the human heart is like the tap, tap of water that can wear away even granite.” – Elisabeth Gifford, The Lost Lights of St Kilda
It’s really quite interesting when you think about it: when you start a book you have no idea who the characters are, and yet 288 pages later you are emotionally invested in their happiness. You need to know that these fictional people whom you have come to know over a few hundred pages are going to be okay. The ability to create a strong bond between reader and character is a sign of an exceptional author. Gifford is a true talent, and I cannot wait to read her other books. Although it is only March, I have a strong feeling that The Lost Lights of St Kilda will be my favourite book of 2020. I cannot fault it in any way. The Lost Lights of St Kilda is one of those books that I will cherish for years to come.
Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religion at Leeds University. Her bestselling novel, Secrets of the Sea House, was shortlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown for Best First Historical Novel in 2014. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames.