Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

Synopsis From Goodreads:

When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom, their whirlwind relationship leads them to purchase Les Genevriers, an abandoned house in a rural hamlet in the south of France. As the beautiful Provence summer turns to autumn, Eve finds it impossible to ignore the mysteries that haunt both her lover and the run-down old house, in particular the mysterious disappearance of his beautiful first wife, Rachel.

Whilst Eve tries to untangle the secrets surrounding Rachel's last recorded days, Les Genevriers itself seems to come alive. As strange events begin to occur with frightening regularity, Eve's voice becomes intertwined with that of Benedicte Lincel, a girl who lived in the house decades before. As the tangled skeins of the house's history begin to unravel, the tension grows between Dom and Eve. In a page-turning race, Eve must fight to discover the fates of both Benedicte and Rachel, before Les Genevriers' dark history has a chance to repeat itself.

This is going to be one of those reviews that's heavily influenced by the amount of time passed between finishing the book and writing the review.  If I had sat down to write this review a day or two after finishing the book, it would have been a blabbering mess of praise and worship  I'm not sure a word of it would have been coherent, but it would have been glowing none the less.  This will still be a positive review, simply because I did enjoy the books, it just won't be the overtly exuberant.

The first thing that I noticed, right off the bat, was how wonderfully descriptive Deborah Lawrenson is with her writing.  There was never a time I did not have a crystal clear picture of the setting in my head.  She made the sights and smells of Provence come to life and leap off the page.  I could see every petal and stem growing in the garden.  I could witness the eerie glow of the lantern as it's light danced in the darkness.  I could touch the rough floor tiles, as Eve struggled to be rid of a reddish brown stain that refused to budge.  There was even a moment where I thought I could smell a touch of lavender wafting through the air of my living room.  I got lost in the sensory elements of the book so often, I would forget it was only a book.

It was that sensory overload that allowed me to buy into the storyline and care about Eve and Benedicte as their stories were told.  These two women were separated by decades, but both seemed to be trapped in circumstances out of their control.  The past would not leave either of them alone and death seemed to be a constant companion.  They both had to deal with family secrets that threatened to destroy the lives they were trying to build.  I cared about both of them and was horrified by the events that threatened to consume one of them.

As much as I loved the setting, characters, and atmosphere of the book, two aspects of it got on my nerves a bit.  The narrative choice was a bit confusing for me at first.  When we first meet Benedicte, she feels like a  ghost that never managed to leave the farm.  Throughout the rest of the book she reads as an ghost or an elderly woman remembering the past.  It's not until the end that I understood she was both of those things, but not at the same time.  The way her voice was interjected into narrative was an interesting choice and not one I think I've seen used before.  I'm just not sure it worked for me.

My other quibble was with the modernism of it all.  I'm just not sold on the idea that a gothic story works as well set in the present.  In an age of internet and cell phones I found myself not believing the way Eve was finding out the information she was seeking.  When she went to a internet cafe to look up Rachael, Dom's former wife, she found stories Rachael had published in magazines, but nothing else about her life or death.  There is no way a published writer could pass away without someone writing an obituary, an obituary that would be found in a google search.  The modern era (technology) robs some of the mystery away from the story.  It's makes that sense of foreboding and danger, a little light.

Despite my issues with the story, issues I may not have thought of had I wrote the review earlier, I enjoyed the book immensely.  Over the course of the last year, I have found myself getting lost in the gothic world, and I'm loving it.  My only regret, is not diving in earlier.  Hopefully, I will be moving on to Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier soon, since it's listed as an inspiration for The Lantern.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.


Anonymous said...

This one has been calling me. I'm actually one who tends to write reviews based on my immediate reactions, so the fact that if you had written it sooner to when you read it it would have been even more glowing is what makes me think I'll enjoy it.

bermudaonion said...

Now I see the Rebecca/The Lantern connection. This book sounds good to me, but I'm wondering if it's over descriptive, which can drive me crazy.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Oh I've been curious about this one. Now, I may have to wishlist it. It sounds so good. I don't mind the modern parts getting in the way now that I know about it.

Staci said...

I just recently downloaded this one to my Kindle. I love gothic and this one sounds like a book I would enjoy. Great review and loved reading your take on this story.

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering about this book as it has been heavily advertised. Your review has firmly pushed me to the "Gotta get it now1" camp. It sounds like everything I'm in the mood to read right now.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Great review. I passed on this one due to time and lack there of. I would agree with you on the modern component. That would bug me too. I like gothic stories set in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Jill Buck said...

I saw this one at the library last week and almost picked it up, but I already had three books picked out so I decided to wait on it. It does sound intriging though.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read a lot of gothic fiction but I think I'm really missing out on it.

Thanks for being a part of the tour Ryan!