Image source: Amazon.com
If your book club is planning selections for fall already, you might want to consider The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. It is a gothic tale best read when the days shorten and summer days are only just beginning to fade to memory. We read this in one of my book clubs for our October reading several years ago; in my view, it was the perfect book for that month.
The Lantern is told by two voices, Eve (modern day), and Benedicte (70+ years prior). The connectivity between these two voices is Les Genevriers, a crumbling farm house and estate in Provence, France.
Eve meets a wealthy older man named Dominic, who she calls Dom. They buy Les Genevriers and set about bringing it back to its former glory, but the house, and Dom, come with deep brooding secrets. Eve becomes increasingly unnerved as she senses that both Dom and the house are haunted by unsettled pasts.
Image source: fallbreeze.net
Benedicte’s story is quite different and much more interesting than Eve’s. It begins when she is quite old and the ghosts of her siblings begin to appear, challenging her to reveal terrible secrets. Her story moves back and forth from end of life musings to the progression from childhood at Les Genevriers with her sister Marthe and her horrid brother Pierre. Her first love and disappointment with love. .
If you look at weighted reviews you will find this book has mixed review, with the total number of stars on Amazon as 3.7. I would give this book more of a 4.7, but I do understand the lower rating. Some people do not enjoy the length, nor frequency, of descriptive passages. Also, there are distracting side stories thrown in to add to the mystery, but don’t really advance the plot. At my book club we agreed that the Eve story, which was largely modeled on Daphne Du Maurier’s, Rebecca, was probably intended as the main story, but as the author wrote Benedicte’s story it just sort of took over. That was the story that wanted to be written and was meant to be told. Benedicte’s story is therefore much more compelling.
Having been honest about the why’s of the official rating, let me quickly add this: if you are in the right mood for a modern gothic story, you will truly enjoy this book. Let the descriptive passages carry you to Provenance and suspend your disbelief that any modern woman would actually put up with a moody, secretive man like Dom. In your minds eye make him extremely good looking and very attentive when he is in a good mood. It helps quite a bit. Breathe in deeply the smells of lavender, oleander, orange blossom and rose as they are described and participate in the story the way the author intended. Collect your overall impressions, untangle the stories and define where they connect, and share it all at book club. We had a great discussion and I am sure you will too!
And why the title The Lantern, well that is revealed as the story progresses. I will not spoil it for you!