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  • Writer's pictureSusan Edsall

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson
Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson


by Jeanette Winterson

I have read Jeanette Winterson's Lighthousekeeping many, many times. Every time I come to it again, I think it is about a blind lighthouse keeper. And that's all I can remember about it. Except that I love the book—I remember that about it, too. But what's weird is that it isn't about a blind lighthouse keeper. There is a blind lighthouse keeper—named Pew—as a character, but there are a lot of characters. And there's a young child—named Silver—who comes to live with him.

The story is, simply, and I mean this literally, magic. It appears and disappears. It changes into one thing and then changes back. It is like a dream—so real when you're in it, but then it's hard to tell someone else exactly what happened.

This book, running a mere 231 pages, is beautiful and hopeful. It will change your mind so profoundly that you can't remember what you thought before. It's poetic and harsh and so, so lovely. It's a story about storytelling, and time, and love. What more could you want?

If you buy it, you will read it over and over again through your remaining years, and you will buy it for your friends.

I desperately want Jeanette Winterson's vast, unrelenting imagination, the courage she has to dig to the absolute bottom of her heart. In the absence of that, I will happily read, over and over again, every single word she writes.

Here are a few sample passages of her gorgeous prose and expansive imagination:

“Miss Pinch came visiting, and asked me what I intended to do with my Future. She spoke about it as though it were an incurable disease.”

“I do not accept that life has an ordinary shape, or that there is anything ordinary about life at all. We make it ordinary, but it is not.”

“We are lucky, even the worst of us, because daylight comes.”

“Tell me a story, Pew. What kind of story, child? A story with a happy ending. There's no such thing in all the world, As a happy ending? As an ending.”

“Pew—why didn't my mother marry my father? She never had time. He came and went. Why didn't Babel Dark marry Molly? He doubted her. You must never doubt the one you love. But they might not be telling you the truth. Never mind that. You tell them the truth. What do you mean? You can't be another person's honesty, child, but you can be your own. So what should I say? When? When I love someone? You should say it.”

“I'll call you, and we'll light a fire, and drink some wine, and recognise each other in the place that is ours. Don't wait. Don't tell the story later. Life is so short. This stretch of sea and sand, this walk on the shore, before the tide covers everything we have done. I love you. The three most difficult words in the world. But what else can I say?”

You can buy Lighthousekeeping at your local bookstore. If they don't have it in stock, order it from them. Waiting five or six days to support your local bookstore is a small price to support that community treasure. If, inexplicably, you have no local bookstore, and you don't have it in you to start one, you can order it online at Amazon and Indibound.


About Susan Edsall

Writing is how I make my way through the thicket of what we’ve made of this planet we’re on. It takes me a long time and lots of words. Social media mystifies me. How do so many people have so much to say, so quickly, and with such resolute certainty? Read more about Susan >




“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.”

E.M. Forster

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