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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll - Book Review & Interview

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Review by Suze

It's 1941 and the Germans keep dropping bombs on London. After a frightening incident in their hometown London twelve-year-old Olive Bradshaw and her younger brother Cliff are being sent to the Devon coast. They're now evacuees, but finding a bed for the siblings isn't easy. Olive and Cliff eventually end up with Mr Ephraim, the keeper of a lighthouse. He isn't the most social person and hasn't counted on having anyone in his home. Will the siblings be all right with him?

   Olive looks up to her older sister Suki. However, nobody knows where she is. Suki disappeared one night and Olive is the last person who's seen her. Olive isn't giving up easily and wants to be as brave as her sister. She's helping the locals with their secrets, she's carrying messages, she's trying to decipher something cryptic, but important and she won't stop her quest to find Suki. Will Olive succeed or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

Letters from the Lighthouse is a beautiful impressive story. Emma Carroll writes about the impact the Second World War has on children in a fantastic emphatic way. Nobody is safe, children have to grow up quickly and Olive learns a lot during her stay at the lighthouse. I loved how resilient she is. Her determination to help is admirable and because she's capable, responsible and wise for her age she doesn't make a mess and actually helps, which is what I loved the most about her story. While she's trying to be as useful as possible Olive is also still a girl, trying to make friends and looking after her little brother. I enjoyed that combination a lot and think these two aspects of the story are both incredibly well executed.

Letters from the Lighthouse is a story about an important period in history that shouldn't be forgotten. I love how Emma Carroll captures the atmosphere of the Second World War and what it's like to be a child in that time. Her story is honest and accessible, there's plenty of adventure, it's gripping and informative. There are plenty of secrets and the many fascinating twists and turns kept me on the egde of my seat. She managed to captivate me from beginning to end. Letters from the Lighthouse is a very special book, a story I highly recommend to both children and adults. It's a brilliant story, an absolute must-read.


Letters from the Lighthouse is another fantastic historical fiction story for children by Emma Carroll. It's a story that's suitable for both children and adults.

About Emma Carroll

When I’m not writing books, I’m reading them. For many years I was an English teacher in a secondary school in Devon. Nowadays, I write full time. It’s my absolute dream-come-true job!

As a child, I wrote stories about ponies and pop stars, though not together. Today they call it fan-fiction; back then it was just weird.

After school, I worked as a reporter on a local newspaper. From there I went to university to study English Literature. After backpacking around the Middle East, South America, Australia, I did a PGCE in English and became a teacher.

Many years later, I bought myself a lovely big notebook and some new pens. I enrolled on the MA Writing For Young People at Bath Spa University, and got writing again. ‘Frost Hollow Hall’ was started on the MA course. It is my first novel, and took two years and many cups of tea to write.
I live in the Somerset hills with my husband and two Jack Russell terriers.

Five More Things About Me:

• I am obsessed with snow.
• My dogs Pip and Bertie snooze next to me when I’m writing.
• I have been a vegetarian since the age of 11.
• I love peanut butter AND marmite AND cucumber on toast – don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
• My favorite book is ‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters.




1) Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

I'm a writer living in the Somerset Hills. I love: cups of tea, spooky stories, dogs. I don't like: goat's cheese and mansplaining,

2) Letters from the Lighthouse is a World War II story, why is it so important for children to read about this time?

It's a very evocative time in history- air raids, the threat of invasion from Hitler, children being evacuated from their homes- so from a writer's point of view it makes for a dramatic backdrop to any story. It's also living history- most of us still know someone who remembers wartime Britain. The stories and anecdotes passed on from the era demonstrate the very best and very worst in human nature; I think that's something we can all usefully reflect on, children and adults..

3) What do you find the most fascinating about lighthouses?

So much! Many writers before me would agree, I'm sure! They symbolise that alluring mix of danger and a guide to safety, the light representing hope in dark times. I love the thought of living inside a tall, circular tower- for Olive in 'Letters' this is far removed from her traditional terraced house in east London, and so highlights her sense of alienation. Also, there's something thrilling yet isolated- bleak, even lonely- about many lighthouse locations.

4) You write about the bond between siblings, can you tell a bit more about the inspiration behind the Bradshaw siblings?

Growing up I was the younger sibling, and yes, I did feel awe towards my older brother, who seemed very exciting and 'cool' when actually he probably wasn't! I love exploring the dynamic between siblings and friends who have that blood-relative-type of-closeness. So much of it is unspoken or nuanced.

5) You write historical fiction for children, what do you like the most about the genre?

Creating a world where your characters face greater everyday perils- poverty, disease for example- as well as being unable to solve everything with a simple phone call or search of 'google'. I also love the little gems of story history gives you or the fascinating facts you know younger readers will enjoy.

6) Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

Anywhere and everywhere. A picture, a snippet of conversation, a story I've read or someone has told me about, family histories- and not forgetting my imagination, which is pretty active! (helpful when writing but not so much at other times!)

7) Can you tell a bit about your connection with your dogs?

I grew up with dogs, so I've always loved them. To be honest, I love all animals but do have a particular soft spot for dogs . they're such loyal, affectionate, funny things. Ours are very much part of the family. I can't ever see us being without a dog or two.

8) You’re obsessed with snow, what do you like so much about it?

Ha! Everything! The way it looks- obviously- and having a decent snowball fight. I love that its unusual these days, so when it comes along it's rather magical. Most of all, I adore how it makes everything stop for a while. It changes things, makes the world slow down. You can't beat that Snow Day feeling!

9) You used to be a teacher and still work with children, can you tell a bit more about your passion for this profession?

I went into teaching because I love English as a subject- books, creativity, writing are my passions. What surprised me was how much I loved working with young people. They're challenging, interesting, rewarding and enlightening. Put simply, they teach you so much. Teaching is a brilliant profession. What made it hard for me in the end were the politics which tended to over-ride the aspects of the job I cared most about.

10) You’re interested in the gothic genre, where does it come from and what’s the most fascinating thing about it?

I've loved creepy stories from an early age, and still do. What fascinates me the most? With ghost stories,I guess its that atmosphere and idea of something 'other worldly' that can't be explained. Gothic stories tend to be about more than just horror- there are often social, political or gender- related subtexts which are equally fascinating.

11) What are your plans for the future?

Write more books! I'm contracted for more MG wth Faber, and something new and exciting to be announced soon....


  1. What a beautiful review and great interview.

  2. I enjoyed learning about Emma Carroll and her book. Thank you!

  3. I'm vegetarian too!! Lighthouses are magical places, perfect set for a World War II story...I'm about to flight to England soon, the first bookshop I'll find I'll get the book!!

  4. I love historical fiction, this sounds so good!

  5. Great to meet a new-to-me author!


  6. I enjoyed the interview. Thanks for sharing. And this book sounds wonderful. Such a lovely cover and I'm always drawn to books in this era. Such a fascinating story too.

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  8. New author to me :D
    Thanks for the lovely review and wonderful interview :)

  9. It sounds like a really good page turner, I love that cover too.

  10. new author to me but i like the idea of historical for children it's a good way to learn when immeresed in a good story

    thank you for this review

  11. "and what it's like to be a child in that time." - that's very interesting, and something that I believe isn't usually portrayed in media.
    Also, good point about the subtext in Gothic!

  12. This sounds like a really interesting read. My aunt and uncle were evacuated during the war and I enjoyed hearing their stories about that time.

  13. So awesome! The cover, the blurb, everything!

  14. Thanks for the interview & review!

  15. Very poignant to get a child's perspective of life in those awful times. Dad was evacuated from Liverpool but ran away home, while Mum's family in Wales looked after many refugee children.

  16. I find England during this time period fascinating & I really want to know what happened to Suki.

  17. What an emotional time and situation to go through.

  18. Love this type of story and the time set.