’For a writer, you held your nerve well.’
This is lovely. A love story more than a history. Can there be any greater vicarious feeling than the passion of others writ large? Tom Nancollas tells the story of the remaining rock lighthouses of the British Isles, like many of these types of ‘History of a thing’ books there’s facts and fiction interwoven with the unmistakable joy of an author able to realise the physical manifestation of a passion.
Like all good rom-coms about a man in love with a lighthouse, or, more accurately, several lighthouses, you’re kept waiting for the payoff. There’s an early foray, of course, all good romances need a misfire. A disused lighthouse near Liverpool is the author’s first journey inside a granite tower, but somehow, because the lighthouse isn’t active perhaps, it’s a relationship bound to disappoint, it looks right but feels wrong.
It was while he was being sort of disappointed in Liverpool that I thought to myself that were this book about a man retracing the last surviving members of a football team that won a cup or the lost stadia of football teams no longer in business it’d be quite famous, but as it’s about lighthouses you can sense a sniffiness in the air about the subject.
The payoff arrives eventually though and the final house is where our leading man finally sees the light at close quarters. I won’t ruin it for you, but if you’re the type of person who made it all the way through Notting Hill or Love Actually or Four Weddings and a Funeral then this book will have a familiar feel. That’s not specifically accurate, well, it’s not accurate at all really, but it fits in with the narrative I was so tortuously trying to shoehorn in.
Anyway, at the end, he gets to turn the theory and research into actual experience and that’s a joy because you see that jump off the page. I zipped through it and enjoyed every tidbit. You should buy a copy for the old man who has everything in your life.