May 3, 2005

From one of Britain’s best-loved literary novelists comes a magical, lyrical tale of the young orphan Silver, taken in by the ancient lighthousekeeper Mr. Pew, who reveals to her a world of myth and mystery through the art of storytelling. Motherless and anchorless, Silver is taken in by the timeless Mr. Pew, keeper of the Cape Wrath lighthouse.

Pew tells Silver ancient tales of longing and rootlessness, of the slippages that occur throughout every life. One life, Babel Dark’s, a nineteenth-century clergyman, opens like a map that Silver must follow, and the intertwining of myth and reality, of storytelling and experience, lead her through her own particular darkness.

A story of mutability, talking birds and stolen books, of Darwin and Stevenson and of the Jekyll and Hyde in all of us, Lighthousekeeping is a way into the most secret recesses of our own hearts and minds. Jeanette Winterson is one of the most extraordinary and original writers of her generation, and this shows her at her lyrical best.

‘The importance of stories, the urge to create ourselves through stories, is one of Winterson’s abiding themes, along with the supremacy, the redemptive power of love’ Daily Telegraph

‘A marvellously skilful juggling act of ideas and emotion … Winterson’s prodigious talent brings the book alive’ Evening Standard

‘The power of Lighthousekeeping is in the pared-down precision of its language, each word smoothed into a finely polished pebble’ Observer

A beginning a middle and an end is the proper way to tell a story but I have difficulty with that method


This is the story of an orphan (YES ANOTHER ONE) and Blind Pew who looks after her.

Silver is born part precious metal part pirate.

She finds her way in the world by listening to stories and later telling stories. Stories are her navigation system.

I was in my usual territory of love and loss and a lot of water. But I wanted to cheer myself up, I think, to find a resolution to all those swirling thoughts. There never is a resolution but we try.

And in this story is another story, slightly sunk, Babel Dark, a depressed and distressed clergyman trying to swim in time to a place before the flood.

And Charles Darwin is in here, and Robert Louis Stevenson. And Tristan and Isolde.

It isn’t factory fiction, it doesn’t follow a template and I didn’t make it on a jig. It isn’t off a loom with a single width or weight either.

But when you sit alone at night wondering who you are, remember, ‘we are lucky, even the worst of us, because daylight comes.’