GRACE

"I swore you were alone; I swore you could do nothing..." Brooks said to Father. "How...?"

"Grace helped me," Father said. "I was dead sure the lifeboat could not get out..."

William Robson - I shall ever remember it - leaned over the table towards Father, and brought his fist down crashing on the board, and cried out, "You cormorant, Darling! You've filched every penny away from under our noses!"

And I swear with his words the first thought of the money at issue came to me; and brought a foreshadowing chill.

Then William Swann spoke up. "Your business is to keep the light, Darling; this was work of ours; and a man's work, too - not fit for a girl."

In the early hours of 7th September 1838, a young woman and her father rowed through a fierce storm to rescue survivors from a shipwrecked paddle steamer. That single act of courage was to make Grace Darling's name famous throughout Britain. But with fame the life she lived on the isolated lighthouse on the Northumbrian coast's Ferne Islands was shattered.

For years she endured a constant stream of visitors who came to look at her, letters, pleading for a lock of her hair or a line of her writing, and the attentions of nobility, dignitaries and clergymen who sought the glory of having been in the company of this national symbol of virtue.

But more than all these wearisome intrusions, Grace was haunted, in Jill Paton Walsh's outstanding new novel, by the accusations and bitterness of the local people. Was her bravery really inspired by the thought of reward, and was it her fault that the fearless efforts of the North Sunderland lifeboatmen, who had faced even greater danger to attempt the same rescue, were largely ignored?

Compassionate, evocative and totally enthralling, Grace powerfully portrays a modest young woman suddenly exposed to the glare of publicity and all that it generates; an unforgettable book that represents a major landmark in a remarkable writing career already laden with awards and prizes.

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