The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson A Review
Author: Deborah Lawrenson
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: August 9, 2011 (hardcover); February 28, 2012 (paperback)
When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les Genevriers, an abandoned house set among the fragrant lavender fields of the south of France. Deeply in love and surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive. But as verdant summer fades to golden autumn, the grand house's strange and troubling mysteries begin to unfold—and Eve now must uncover its every secret . . . before dark history can repeat itself.
The first chapter of The Lantern begins...
The rocks glow red above the sea, embers of the day’s heat below our balcony at the Hotel Marie.
Down here, on the southern rim of the country, out of the mistral’s slipstream, the evening drops like viscous liquid: slow and heavy and silent. When we first arrived, the stifling sultriness made sleep impossible; night closed in like the lid of a tomb.
Readers have referred to this writing style as ‘evocative’ and ‘lush’. Yes it’s descriptive and very pretty. However, 383 pages of image driven scent inducing flowery prose makes me use a word I rarely use when reviewing…overwritten! Early on as I read, I quickly started worrying if I would be turned off by Deborah Lawrenson’s overly-descriptive writing style. Once the mystery took off, I went with it!
The Lantern is a combination of two storylines that run conclusively together in alternating chapters. So is the story:
The modern day storyline is told in the first person by the female protagonist who remains unnamed throughout the book. She is only referred to as ‘Eve’ by her ‘secretive’ husband Dom. He calls her Eve as a Garden of Eden reference because they met in a maze on Lake Geneva. They meet early on at the Hotel Marie in the South of France after some unidentified calamity has occurred, exiling ‘Eve’ and her then lover Dom. I suppose there are worse places to be exiled at least you won’t be alone because you’ll meet a handsome stranger! After spending a short time together and upon Dom’s insistence, they move into a ramshackle Provencal cottage which they call Les Genevriers to begin their life of isolated bliss together! Anyone else sensing a nod to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca yet?
Paradise never lasts forever as we find out at Les Genevriers with Dom’s strong negative reaction to any mention of his former wife, Rachel. Then there’s Sabine, a local who knows Dom (though he claims not to know her) who also knew Rachel. Dom and Eve begin to hear strange reports of local girls gone missing and their home itself is quite old and apparently…haunted…
The second storyline is where the confusion and doubt creep in for the reader. At least this one. Flashback chapters telling the story of prior occupants of Les Genevriers, Benedicte Lincel who grew up there and lived her entire adult life in that house. As her story unravels, the reader finds out that she is an old woman living alone beset by what she believes are ghosts. She sees her first ghost, her brother Pierre, who is described as a bit of a ‘wild boy’ who tormented Benedicte as she grew up. Soon the entire ghostly family appears making the reader feel almost as if they need a score card just to keep track of occurrences.
Dom’s first wife Rachel we find out is not quite as fascinating in the same way as Dom and Eve are but she is a compelling character. One annoyance I found with Eve’s character was how she kept asking Dom questions about who Rachel was, about their life together, etc. I do understand,as a woman,the curiosity about the mysterious first wife your current husband and lover will not talk about under any circumstances. Even after Dom tells Eve not to question him, she does so, at every possible chance she gets. This was so annoying and very off putting! I wanted to shake Eve and tell her to knock it off!
The Lantern is supposed to be a Gothic romance; another nod to Rebecca with tinges of the orphaned Jane Eyre. Even though the romantic relationship between Dom and Eve is central to the Gothic plot,this requires the heroine to remain mostly passive towards Dom leaving her in such a state of denial most of the time. Dom however grows vague and very distant towards Eve very early on in their ‘romantic’ relationship thus capturing that brooding, mysterious Olivier/Maxim and Rebecca homage again! Leaving the reader having a hard time understanding the real nature of their romantic connection or maybe it was just me!
Without giving too much more away, as with dual storylines, you have a build up where the storylines tie together in a very grand way. This happens in spades! Actually a deafening crescendo that left me gob smacked and actually tearing up!
Overall, I enjoyed ‘The Lantern’ for Deborah Lawrenson’s attempts to capture the romance and ghost story so prevalent in Gothic literature! If you want a romantic beach read this might be a good choice. I still highly recommend Rebecca and Jane Eyre first though!
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