The Lighthouse Bookshop by Sharon Gosling: A moving and mysterious tale – book review –
What better escape could there be this summer than a trip to a quiet corner of Aberdeenshire and time spent with a close-knit community whose gathering point is amongst the quaint charms of a lighthouse bookshop.
Well-known children’s author Sharon Gosling, who harnessed her love for Crovie, a historic village on the Moray Firth in Scotland, for her spellbinding adult debut novel, The House Beneath the Cliffs, moves further inland for a beautiful and heartwarming new story of secret passions, tragedy and a long-ago romance.
And Gosling, who lives in a remote village in northern Cumbria, has also found inspiration from the bookshop that she and her husband run in the nearby market town of Penrith, imagining a village of book-loving residents who share their triumphs and disasters at their local bookshop… housed in a lighthouse-shaped folly on a crumbling country estate.
And what a book lovers’ delight it proves to be as we are swept into the lives of a quirky cast of characters, each with a tale to tell and each playing their part in the struggles of a young woman whose mysterious arrival in the village five years ago hides secrets in her past.
At the heart of a tiny community in the remote village of Newton Dunbar, just inland from the Aberdeenshire coast, stands an unexpected lighthouse, the folly built two centuries earlier by eccentric landowner, James MacDonald, who died in a disastrous fire at the big house on his grand estate.
Since then, the house has fallen into ruin and the lighthouse folly is home to the only bookshop for miles around and owned by the one remaining family descendant, the elderly Cullen MacDonald, whose home is in the little gatehouse.
The shop is run by Rachel, an ‘incomer’ to the village, who lives in the top two floors of the lighthouse. She arrived in Newton Dunbar, with her well-hidden secrets, five years ago and found a job she loved and a place she could call home.
And the bookshop is also the place where she meets Toby, a former foreign correspondent for a national newspaper, who was wounded in the Yemen and hasn’t worked since. He’s now researching the history of the lighthouse and might just need Rachel’s help.
But when Cullen dies suddenly, Rachel steps in to take care of the bookshop, trying to help it survive the next stage of its life. And when she discovers a secret in the lighthouse, one that has long been kept hidden, she realises there is more to its history than many in the village had ever suspected.
Can she uncover the truth about James MacDonald, the lighthouse’s first owner, and can she protect the secret history that she has inadvertently discovered?
For those craving a warm and welcoming book hug story, look no further than the delights that await at the Lighthouse Bookshop… the place where friendship is alive and well, where romance blossoms, and where the past is just waiting to be discovered.
At the heart of this moving and mysterious tale of light and darkness – with its haunting centuries-old tragedy and the forging of a path to new beginnings – are not just Rachel and Toby, who have both suffered life’s slings and arrows, but the diverse residents of Newton Dunbar.
And it is through the prism of the local community, and the traumatic events of two hundred years ago, that we begin to understand the physical and mental scars left on the village, and the power of friendship to heal.
Written with Gosling’s trademark insight and empathy, her gift for portraying the drama and delights of a rural landscape, and her heartfelt homage to books, this is every book, and romance, fan’s dream read.
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £8.99)