Two surprises from abroad awaited me in my mailbox yesterday: a letter from France and a book from England. The letter drew my attention first. I took the time to savor it. Then I turned to the book, Godrevy: Views to a Lighthouse.
The cover photo, a moody view of Godrevy Lighthouse — Virginia Woolf’s lighthouse — on an overcast day, made me want to see more. So for now I flipped past the essay on the history of the lighthouse and its place in literature and art, which is written by Jessica Mann and Charles Thomas, and went straight for the photos.
A quote from T.S. Eliot introduces Michael Marten’s photos — and there are 47 pages of them. Most of the photos are laid out in threes over a two-page spread, with each spread setting a scene and evoking a mood. Stormy, sunny, secretive, open-hearted, light, dark — these are just a few of the moods Martin’s photos of the rocks, the beach, and the sky surrounding Godrevy Lighthouse communicate.
He took the photos over a five-year period — and perhaps that adds to their authenticity, since while viewing them, I had the feeling that I was experiencing what it would be like to live within view of the lighthouse Woolf saw from Talland House each summer until she was 12.
The everyday moments of the lighthouse and its environs that Marten captured also made me wonder what Woolf would have thought when she saw what he saw. I imagined her taking special notice of the greenish-aqua water in one shot or the seagull dashed against the rocks in another or the light shining in a dark blue night sky in another. Paging through this book, I found it easy to imagine the young Virginia and her siblings wandering along the beach, climbing among the rocks, and exploring the cracks and caverns that Marten pictures.
Woolf fans will find this book a treasure, particularly in light of the recent threat to the view of Godrevy from Talland House in St. Ives, Cornwall.
You can flip through a mini version of the book and order it on Michael Marten’s website. But that is just a weak substitute for seeing the book in person.
It is published by Kehrer Verlag, is priced at £30, and was reviewed in depth by the Western Morning News.