🌠 It's the first of the month and my featured book is The Lost Lights of St Kilda 🌠
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...
Years later, to help deal with his hellish existence in a German prisoner of war camp, Fred tells the tale of the island and the woman he loved, but left behind. And Fred starts to wonder, where is Chrissie now? And does she ever think of him too?
What did I think about it..
Beautifully evocative of a bygone time, The Lost Lights of St Kilda, takes you into itself and wraps you safe from the smouldering storm of seas which crash along the coast with some ferocity, and which continually threaten the livelihood of this close knit community, who are only ever one bad season away from starvation.
Chrissie Gillies is a beautiful young woman, she's also something of a rarity having been born and raised on the remote Scottish island of St Kilda. The stoicism of the islanders and their tenacity in clinging to a life of hardship allows no room for sentiment. However, Chrissie's head is filled with dreams of a very different life that she may never fulfill, and featuring strongly in those dreams, is the local laird's son, Archie Macleod, whose casual return to the island with his friend, Fred Lawson, in the summer of 1927, causes some disruption, not just to Chrissie's life, but also to the peaceful equilibrium of the island and islanders.
The second arc of the story takes us to an altogether more troubled time as we learn of the events which unfolded in 1940, and Fred Lawson's wartime account is just as compelling as his memories of that poignant summer on St Kilda, and is no less heart breaking.
There's far too much I want to say about this beautiful story but that would spoil everything. I'll concentrate instead on this talented author's ability to pitch every story absolutely perfectly, so that rather than the story overshadowing the reader, the reader becomes part of the natural landscape, blending as one with the islanders as they eke out their meagre existence in a place of such natural beauty that the author's descriptions of the island left me quite breathless. And then of course there's the history of St Kilda and its people, the simple beauty of their myths and legends, their rich stoicism and natural reticence, which is juxtaposed against the horror of a world war which claimed a generation of young men.
Combining a rich tapestry of history, a detailed mystery and heart breaking lost love, The Lost Lights of St Kilda, is everything I ever wanted in a story. Beautifully researched, evocatively explained and with an undeniable attraction that keeps you turning the page with a desperate need to discover what happened to Chrissie Gillies, Archie McLeod and Fred Lawson.
Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has written articles for The Times and the Independent and has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. She is married with three children. They live in Kingston upon Thames.
Twitter @elisabeth04liz #TheLostLightsofStKilda