“The stories we tell define us. So do the stories we don’t tell and the ones we never finish.”
Sarah and Jack Bramer are a young couple who are desperate to have a child. Or at least Sarah is… After seven years of disappointment, their relationship has reached a crisis point. Sarah is a mixed race British woman. Jack is an American. Lately, his love for her has taken a sour turn. Sarah knows that this is her last chance to become pregnant. She wants to know, yet she doesn’t …. She runs away to her favourite place on the South Downs to come to terms with her rampant emotions. Jack, goes in search of her. He is distraught, manic, and increasingly desperate.
His name is Gabriel Keane, but they call him the ‘Keeper’. A man in his forties, he lives alone in a decommissioned lighthouse located at Beachy Head, East Sussex. He is a raggedy, handsome, and battered man.
The Keeper does not keep a light. He keeps sorrow, heartache, and a crippling sadness. He mourns for his love – Maria an artist, who went by the name of Rí (rhymes with free).
“It’s so hard to be here without her, but he can’t leave, because she is still here, at least in his head. His heart. Her things in the tower, the art she made.”
Before he came here, the Keeper was a war correspondent, then an investigative journalist. Now, he questions no one. All of the sad stories he keeps locked away in his mind. From long experience, he is a good listener.
When the grieving Keeper meets up with the emotional fragile Sarah, both lives will be forever changed.
The place. The striking white chalk cliffs of the South Downs. A place where people come to admire the beauty. A place where others come to end their lives. In fact, this area is the third most common suicide location in the world! So many people come to this area to commit suicide that there are regular patrols to try to locate and stop potential cliff jumpers.
What a delightful surprise this novel was. Slow-paced, literary fiction that cover themes of loss, hope, childlessness, suicide, and most of all… the ways that grief and bereavement can shape a life.
The characters are written with deep empathy and compassion. The setting was rendered with affection which caused the reader to feel as if they are ‘there’.
“My place. There is a symmetry that appeals. The sea and the sky. The white and the green, the chalk and the down. The drop and the rise. Falling and rising.”
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who reads and cherishes moving, well-written, thoughtful, literary fiction. Loved it!
Cole Moreton is an award-winning British interviewer, writer and broadcaster exploring who we are and what we believe in. He writes, talks and tells stories about the arts, politics, cultural identity, faith, spirituality and life, but above all, people.
His Radio 4 series The Boy Who Gave His Heart Away told the story of a modern medical miracle and won Audio Moment of the Year at the Arias and Best Writing at the World’s Best Radio awards in New York. It also became a book and stage show. He won bronze for Best Speech Presenter at the Audio Production Awards in 2018.
His debut novel (and fifth book), “The Light Keeper” will be published in August 2019.