The Optician of Lampedusa - Emma-Jane Kirby


The offer

We’re offering 10 books each to 15 reading groups who would like to read and review Emma Jane Kirby’s heart-breaking debut. To claim a set of books for your reading group please contact Genista at

We’d love to hear your reading group’s thoughts on The Optician of Lampedusa. Tweet your own mini review or your favourite quote from the book @PenguinUKbooks and @AllenLaneBooks. Or you can post a picture of your favourite passage from the book on Instagram, just tag @penguinukbooks.

The book

‘I can hardly begin to describe to you what I saw as our boat approached the source of that terrible noise. I hardly want to. You won’t understand because you weren’t there. You can’t understand. You see, I thought I’d heard seagulls screeching. Seagulls fighting over a lucky catch. Birds. Just birds.’

The Optician of Lampedusa lives a quiet life with his wife on a remote Mediterranean island. He has seen the headlines about shipwrecked migrants, noticed the reception centre, even crossed paths with the occasional lost soul. Yet it is only when, one sunny October morning, a relaxing boat trip with friends unexpectedly turns into a heart-breaking rescue mission, that he truly comes face to face with the human tragedy unfolding on his doorstep – and on all of our doorsteps.

‘An important book … I cried all the way through’ Tracy Chevalier

‘A moving insight’ Financial Times, Book of the Year

’raw and emotional ‘ Fiona Wilson, The Times

‘A book that can be devoured as if it were a novel, but in which everything is true’ Le Parisien

‘An ambitious and important book… Emma Jane Kirby challenges us to do more than cry.’ Peter Stanford, Observer

About the author

Emma-Jane Kirby is a broadcast journalist who has reported extensively on international affairs, from Brussels to Afghanistan. She won the Bayeux-Calvados Award for War Correspondents for her report ‘The Optician of Lampedusa’, on which this book is based.


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