A sweeping novel set on the Scottish island of St Kilda, following the last community to live there before it was evacuated in 1930.
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 adored this novel, from its ethereal cover to the beautiful narrative that lived within its pages.
A classic love story of two people who only realised how much they loved each other when it was all too late. Yet that wasn’t all, it was a love story of a place, of a way of life that dwindled away, its people forced from their homes as society moved on.
The remote island of St Kilda was our setting, the bleak but beautiful landscape, it’s inhabitants hardened by the weather, enveloped in tradition. How many can say their food came from the cliffs that hogged the shore, the harvesting treacherous, but necessary to survive the harsh winter.
The old people dying out, the young who left as they sought an easier more comfortable life, made it hard to imagine how the islanders survived so long. Gifford’s detail was superb, as she ran riot with your imagination, as you felt the wind, the brutality of the storms but also the calm beauty of the summer, and the shimmering sky’s.
Despite the hardships, there were those who coveted it, much like Chrissie, young, yet intelligent, questioning, her life thrown into turmoil by the arrival of Archie, the Laird’s heir and his friend Fred.
Who was Fred, the young man, who seemed to throw himself into the ways of the islanders, who Chrissie fell in love with?
Gifford made them dance around each other, as they worked one another out, tested if their feelings were real, only to bring tragedy and separation.
She sent us forward to 1940, to World War II, as Fred battled for survival and escape in war torn France, Chrissie, on mainland Scotland their lives so so far apart. The only light keeping him alive, the thought of his lost love Chrissie, the chance to right the wrongs and seek redemption.
I loved that Gifford used the first person, alternating chapters between Chrissie and Fred. Their voices came across as loud and clear, their stories, their lives so different, yet the common thread was love. I felt the emotion of both, the hardships Gifford put them through, the many layers she plunged to show us their true feelings.
You couldn’t help but be swept along, totally invested in their future, wondering if their paths would cross, if, in the end love would as they say conquer all.
It is not for me to spoil that outcome but instead to insist that you buy, or borrow a copy of The Lost Lights of St Kilda, and experience for yourself Chrissie and Fred’s wonderful story.
I would like to thank Corvus for a copy The Lost Lights of St Kilda to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. Her bestselling novel, Secrets of the Sea House, was shortlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown for Best First Historical Novel in 2014. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames.