Review of Cantwells’ Way in Downhome Magazine

Cantwells’ Way
A Natural History of the Cape Spear Lightstation

By James E. Candow  

Don’t be fooled by the title of Cantwells’ Way: A Natural History of the Cape Spear Lightstation. This slim volume has nothing to do with plants or animals. Rather author James E. Candow has written what is essentially a biography of both the place and the people who looked after it for so many years. The book begins with a definition of lighthouses – or lightstations as the author prefers to call them – and how they function, starting with what is thought to be the very first one, the Pharos of Alexandria in Egypt, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and concludes with the automation of the Cape Spear lighthouse and the end of the Cantwell family’s 151-year reign as the lightkeepers of Cape Spear. Along with way, Candow talks about the politics behind the building and maintenance of the lightstation, the components that go into its successful operation, and how the Cantwells served as its keeper for most of its history. Candow clearly relishes the byroads of history, so a description of how the fog alarm works meanders everywhere from Palaeolithic flutes to the scientific explanation of the relationship between sound and our perception of it. And he is not afraid to express an opinion, especially a critical one. His denunciation of the restoration of the lightstation as a national historic site and the politics behind it, for example, pulls few punches. Cantwells’ Way is a well-researched and well-written book that will certainly teach even the most knowledgeable reader something new.

— Denise Flint, Downhome Magazine

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