Santa Barbara Author's New Novel Takes Readers From Point Conception to Paris, France
Not Your Ordinary Victorian Young Lady!
How could she be?
“The idea for The Girl from the Lighthouse came to me while I was standing in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art,” author Willard Thompson says. “One of the Impressionist paintings there—View of Paris from the Trocadero by Berthe Morisot—depicts two women staring out at a distant Paris blocked by a wood fence from moving forward into the city. I thought how completely that image represented the oppression of women and their struggle for equality during the Victorian Age. I had to express my feeling at the injustice of how women were treated and began to write the story, using a young woman who grew up unaware of the Victorian expectations of women."
Abandoned by her mother when she is just five years old, Emma Dobbins is raised at the desolate Point Conception, California, lighthouse by her father and three other lighthouse keepers. At an early age, she discovers her rare artistic talent. When she goes to Paris, France, in 1869, to study art, Frenchmen fall in love with her beautiful face and lustrous dark hair and eyes. Some men want to paint her, and others try to court her. But either way, she doesn’t abide by the restrictions imposed on Victorian age women.
In Thompson’s new novel, The Girl from the Lighthouse, Emma lives through the Siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune Revolt that followed. She meets and paints with many of the artists soon to be called The Impressionists. As Paris blossoms into the Belle Époque (Beautiful time) of the 1870s and 80s, Emma grows into an accomplished artist, but never gives up her own principles and independent ways, even when someone steals something precious to her.
“I found my character at Point Conception, a place on the edge of the Pacific, and the edge of civilization in the 1850s,” Thompson says.
“The novel’s storyline is truly fascinating,” Santa Barbara art dealer Frank Goss, says, “but watching the author’s successful exploration of the unknown is every bit as riveting. ...hand in hand with his main character, Emma, he successfully explores these three worlds: 19th century Paris, the world of creating art and the Impressionists’ movement.”
The book will be released in local bookstores, Wednesday, March 20.
Mary Dorra, Author of Demeter’s Choice, commented: “Through the eyes of Emma Dobbins, a young American artist, Willard Thompson takes us back to the era of the Impressionist painters in Paris and the rarefied company of Morisot, Degas, Bazille and other artists in the late 1800s. Her ups and downs as a beautiful young model helped her career when women were rejected at the art schools in Paris. Thompson has beautifully captured the socio-political ambiance of the period through the adventures and misadventures of his heroine and tells her story with great charm and skill.”
The Girl from the Lighthouse is Thompson’s fifth book and fourth fictional literary historical romance. Previously, his novels have captured the romance of early California. Dream Helper, his first, which won a gold medal from the Independent Book Publishers Association, described the sad plight of the Chumash at the Santa Barbara Mission. Delfina’s Gold is a tale of romance and adventure during California’s Mexican days of the nineteenth century. Their Golden Dreams chronicles the lives of men and women who came to California in the Gold Rush days after statehood; there were winners and losers among them.
Thompson is well versed in the history of Point Conception. While serving as president of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, he wrote Keepers of the Light; The history of the Point Conception Lighthouse, which focuses on the men and women who lived and worked at the lighthouse throughout its history. He was instrumental in bringing the Point Conception Lighthouse lens to its prominent place in the Museum when the U.S Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse.
“Writing The Girl from the Lighthouse was a new experience for me,” Thompson says. “I had to learn the history of France—both the Franco-Prussian War and Commune uprising, as well as the Belle Epoque, the beautiful time that followed in the 1870s and 80s, and the history of the Impressionist art movement to write the novel. My wife, Jo, and I spent many pleasant days walking the streets of Paris familiarizing ourselves with the City of Light.”
Title: The Girl from the Lighthouse
Author: Willard Thompson, Gold Medal-winning author of Dream Helper, A novel of Early California
Length: 428 Pages
Publisher: Rincon Publishing
List Price: Paperback $21.95
Availability: all retail and online bookstores March 20, 2019
Review copies and author interviews available on request