Book: The Lantern
Author: Deborah Lawrenson
Summary (from flap of Harper edition): “Meeting Dom was the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me …” When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom in Switzerland, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les Genevriers, an abandoned house in a rural hamlet in the fragrant lavender fields of the south of France. Each enchanting day delivers happy discoveries: hidden chambers, secret vaults, a beautiful wrought-iron lantern. Deeply in love, surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive. But with autumn’s arrival, the days begin to cool-and so, too, does Dom. Though Eve knows he bears the emotional scars of a failed marriage-which he refuses to talk about-his silence arouses suspicion and uncertainty. And like its owner, Les Genevriers is also changing. Bright, warm rooms have turned cold and uninviting; shadows now fall unexpectedly; and Eve senses a presence moving through the garden. As the grand house’s strange and troubling mysteries begin to unfold, she must uncover every secret … before dark history can repeat itself. -Harper, 2012.
Hello all! If this is the first review of mine you're reading, then please feel free to skip this paragraph. If this is your second or third, I deeply apologize for not posting in three months. This book was supposed to be my last one of the summer and then I got swamped with school, so reading for the blog had to take a back seat. Now, I'm on winter break, and I finished this within two or three days. Go figure. As far as winter break goes, I'm hoping to read two more books over the break and write reviews before I go back to school. The covers call for winter reading so that's what I'm doing. I've started the second book so hopefully I can get it and the other book done before Martin Luther King day.
Moving on, here's the review.
If you've read the summary and thought, Oh, this kinda sounds like the plot of Rebecca
by Daphne du Maurier, then you won't be surprised to learn that this book was inspired by the novel. It even says so on the back cover. Now, I've read Rebecca. I've seen the movie adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock. Both are fantastic. I loved both. It's a plot that I've never seen before and I enjoyed it immensely.
I didn't learn about the connection to Rebecca until I read the back cover (because, like all people, I read the back first. I don't check the inside flap first. This was a paperback too, so I was perfectly justified in doing so). What drew me to the book first was the cover (which I have provided in the image above). This cover is absolutely stunning. The lavender fields look so mysterious and foreboding as they lead the eye up to the house on the hill. I was immediately entranced. I picked up the book and read the summary. Now, I believe that there are two types of people when it comes to "inspired" novels. This applies only to those people who read the novel which inspired the second novel first - in this case, Rebecca. I believe, providing you've read Du Maurier's novel first, you will either immediately reject the book as nothing can top the original, or, you decide you'll give it a chance as you enjoyed the original and want to see how this author has worked with it. I, obviously, was the latter. I enjoyed the plot of the Du Maurirer novel, so why not look at this? (plus I didn't want to pass up such a pretty cover)
Here's a disclaimer: I haven't read many "inspired" novels, so, if Lawrenson's way is the route most "inspired" novels go, then I apologize in advance for what I'm about to say. If it's not, well, you decide whether you want to read this or not.
I have good news and bad news. The good news is, if you haven't read Rebecca, you'll enjoy this novel. The bad news is, if you have read Rebecca, almost nothing will surprise you.
Let me clarify in saying that Lawrenson doesn't completely copy the major plot points of Du Maurier's novel. She does give it a twist and another side story to keep you preoccupied.
I promise I'll keep my Rebecca comparisons to a minimum, as not everyone who will read this has read Rebecca. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. I'm sure Lawrenson would agree with me.
As always, posts will be spoiler free.
The story revolves around a young woman named Eve and her relationship with her lover, Dom. She meets the mysterious male while on a trip through Switzerland. They quickly fall in love and, within a few weeks, decide to buy a house in rural southern France. The house is decaying and old, but the couple is determined to renovate it and stay there. While the renovations begin, the honeymoon period of the relationship ends. Eve begins to learn that not everything meets the eye when it comes to the house or to Dom. She must find out what is troubling Dom before the relationship comes to an end. Eve knows that there is only one thing that all of Dom's troubles revolve around - Rachel, Dom's ex-wife.
Now, I'm not exactly an expert in love. I have no clue as to what it's like to be compared to a former lover, wife, etc. I can understand the jealousy, anxiety, and concern that stems from self-inflicted comparisons. If you're not the first, you do compare yourself, at least once, to the first. It's human nature. This is especially true if your significant other refuses to tell you anything about the first one.
As this narrative is half told through the eyes of Eve, we receive more speculation and information on her side than on Dom's. She's an unreliable narrator, but we have to trust that she's as much in the dark as she says she is. She describes the scenery, feelings, and other characters well enough, so the reader's trust in her is justified. A personal peeve of mine is when a character goes on a tangent about nothing; a reflection, if you will. Eve does this a lot. She'll be in the middle of a conversation with a character or in the middle of performing an action and suddenly, she breaks off into a reflection - whether it's about the other character she's with, the place she's in, or the object she's holding. It's very nice that you want to tell us what you think about the French countryside, Eve, but is it really necessary to the plot?
You'll notice I said that the narrative is half told by Eve. What about the other half? The other half is part of Lawrenson's twist to the Rebecca tale. It is told through the first person narrative of a woman called Benedicte. How does she relate to Eve?
Unfortunately, that would involve spoilers so I can't tell you too much. All I can say is that Benedicte lived in the house Dom and Eve buy before they lived there. She, too, is an unreliable narrator, but she's more unreliable than Eve. There are reasons for this, but they aren't revealed until the end of the novel. You'll definitely be surprised.
I have to give Lawrenson some credit. Normally, when you divide a book up by the points of view of different people, you run the risk of confusing the reader. Lawrenson only has two women narrating, but, after a few chapters, you have to rely on the setting and narrative clues in order to tell you who's narrating. If the chapter mentions Dom at all, you're in Eve's world. If not, you're in Benedicte's. Lawrenson makes things easier by making the chapters extremely short. I think the longest chapter is only five to six pages. There are five parts to the whole novel, with the longest part being twenty four chapters. I can see how it can be annoying to some readers (hi, I'm one of them) but I only realized that she may have set it up that way on purpose after reading the twentieth chapter of the third part. The chapters are short so that you can connect the plots of the two narratives more easily. If you had major events happen within a ten page chapter, then have them interrupted by a different narrative that goes on for fifteen pages, you would have to go back to catch up on what had happened in the first narrative. Not so in Lawrenson's novel. I was able to take the two narrative plots without having to go back to previous chapters to make sense of what happened. Kudos to you, Lawrenson.
Romance is a given in this novel, but it is overshadowed by the mystery aspect of the novel. It's more about Eve making sense of and understanding her relationship with Dom rather than them falling in love and affirming it repeatedly. The mystery part is what consumes most of the novel. I think it was well written. The suspense was good and I don't think it was drawn out too much. I think Lawrenson did the best job on the supernatural aspect of the story. Usually, I can figure out whether the "hauntings" in a novel are real or not, but this novel had me guessing until the end. Even when I reached the end, I was still shocked. It wasn't anything scary. It's more unnerving and creepy than anything else. Anyone who lives in an old house knows what I'm talking about. If nothing else, you'll enjoy the supernatural aspect.
I had no real serious qualms with the book, other than seeing (and frankly, predicting) the different major plot points of Rebecca appear in the book. Again if you've read Rebecca you can predict what happens. But, Lawrenson's twists are good. They're not lazy or random. I enjoyed them.
Here's a suggestion, especially if you buy this novel with the cover I bought. Read this book in the summer, particularly the late summer. I read a quarter of this in the summer and the rest of it in winter. The book doesn't have as much potency when it's not read in summer. I think it becomes more alive when you read it during the right season, especially if it's in late August.
I enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who asked. My only word of caution would be if you've read Rebecca before. If you have, it's up to your tastes whether or not you want to read a similar novel. If you don't mind, I'll gladly point you in the novel's direction.
Overall, I give The Lantern an A.
Thank you for being so patient if you've been waiting for a review! Thank you for reading this even if you haven't!
Again, I hope to have two more reviews out before the end of my winter break.
Please support the author by buying the book or borrowing it from a local library or a friend. :)