A compelling, vibrant saga of conflict, love, and a young man’s search to fulfill his dreams.
In this enthralling first novel of the St. Simons Trilogy, Eugenia Price shares the compelling story of James Gould, a young man with a passionate dream. Raised in post-Revolution Granville, Massachusetts, Gould could only imagine the beauty and warmth of lands to the south. It was there that he longed to build bridges and lighthouses from his very own design and plans. The gripping story unfolds as Gould follows his dream to the raw settlement of Bangor on the Penobscot River, to St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia, to lawless Spanish East Florida, and back—at last and finally—to St. Simons. Along the way, he encounters hardship, peril, failure, and success, but it is the unwavering love of Janie Harris, an especially beautiful and strong-willed young woman, that fulfills his deep need for someone who can share the dream and the life he has chosen.
In 1961 Eugenia Price visited St. Simons Island, Georgia during a book signing tour. In the cemetery for Christ Church, she saw a tombstone for the Reverend Anson Dodge and his two wives. This inspired her to research the area, including history and famous figures. She would spend the remainder of her life writing detailed historical novels set in the American South, many of which were critically acclaimed. Her early works, particularly the St Simons Trilogy -which consists of the books The Beloved Invader (1965), New Moon Rising (1969) and Lighthouse (1972) were extensively researched and based on real people. This is in contrast to her later novels, such as Another Day (1984) and The Waiting Time (1997) which featured her own characters. Other historical novels include her The Georgia Trilogy consisting of Bright Captivity, Where Shadows Go, and Beauty From Ashes. The Florida Trilogy has Don Juan McQueen, Maria, and Margaret’s Story. Then she has a Savannah Quartet with Savannah, To See Your Face Again, Before the Darkness Falls, and Stranger in Savannah.
After moving in 1965 to St. Simons, Georgia with her long-time companion, the writer Joyce Blackburn (who assisted her with research), Eugenia Price became active in many local causes; most of which involved protecting the local environment from the effects of industrialisation.
She died in Brunswick, Georgia on May 28, 1996 of congestive heart failure. She is buried just yards from Anson Dodge and his two wives. Her tombstone reads “After her conversion to Jesus Christ, October 2, 1949, she wrote Light…and eternity and love and all are mine at last.”
My church book club, Page Turners, picked Eugenia Price’s novel, Lighthouse, for our September selection because it is considered a classic for those interested in the historic South and in particular the coast of Georgia. The novel was the third book written by Price, but chronologically it is first in her St. Simon’s Trilogy. Set in the years following the American Revolution and filled with real people and places, this is a must read for fans of historical fiction. The novel had been out of print for a number of years, but is now being reissued, along with many of Price’s other books.
Most of the characters in Lighthouse are historic. James Gould was a young man with a dream to build a lighthouse. Price follows James from his humble roots in Granville, Massachusetts through his accomplishments in building, timber, cotton planting and of course the building of the St. Simon’s lighthouse. Extensive research by the author, as well as a deft writing hand, make this novel beautifully crafted as well as historically accurate. James Gould is a very interesting character. He is single-minded in his work, faithful to his family and fair and even-handed in his dealings with his people, or slaves. But he is also a proud man who takes himself very seriously. Independent and uncomplaining, he also finds forgiveness hard. Many of his virtues become faults when not mixed with mercy and grace.
Written in 1972, I think Lighthouse would probably not have found a publisher in the secular world of today. Its worldview, with a natural expression of faith from its characters, makes it definitely read like a Christian novel. And in fact it is. Price took her Christian faith seriously. The issue of slavery in the novel is one case in point. It is portrayed as it probably was, with both good and bad slaveholders. But it in no way condones slavery. It portrays slavery as an insidious evil that lured men away from their convictions. Gould is anti-slavery at the beginning of the novel, yet by the end owns many slaves on his cotton plantation. Those with conscience viewed slavery as a necessary evil during the years before the Civil War. A necessary means to an end. But no matter how good the conditions, owning another human was and is wrong. Turning a blind eye did not make it go away. And neither does it today when there are still so many forced into slavery.
I expect a good discussion when we meet tomorrow night. Have you read this novel? What are your thoughts? We’d love to know.
Audience: older teens to adults
(I purchased this book on my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)