I participated in the RIP Readalong and this is the final week of our discussion. As this post will contain spoilers in the Q&A section for those who have not read it, the opening paragraph below will be safe to read as it is an overview of the story, along with my initial thoughts and recommendations.
The premise of the story is told through alternating voices of two women on a small farm in Provence, the South of France, but in different times. In one, Bénédicte, shares her secrets and perspective of her life beginning in her child of the 1930s/1940s and in the other is Eve, our primary narrator in contemporary times who is a recent resident, moving in with her mysterious boyfriend Dom. A beautifully evocative story, previously mentioned that it has been compared to Rebecca. After finishing The Lantern earlier today, I agree. There are mysteries within secrets, a beautiful home in a lush landscape, a love story that could be sinister, and more. At the height of this new love with Dom, they begin a life together in the summer, but when the weather changes, the hidden stories of Dom's previous life make Eve more curious, and the secret treasures found in the house don't convey the same sense of joy for her that she first felt when uncovering them before. There's more to the house, the previous tenants, and there's most assuredly something more with Dom, and Eve may not be comfortable with the truth.
A beautiful story, highly recommended to all who enjoy a story with atmosphere, mystery, and a Gothic tale. Fans of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova will enjoy this story. I look forward to more from this author.
Question & Answer
1. Now that it's all said and done, what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?
-- I really did enjoy this book. It had all of the elements that I love about a book: a Gothic tale, heightened atmospheric setting in the South of France, beautifully described scents and images, and characters that had quite the stories to tell. While I didn't see the ending coming, I did initially suspect that there was something medically related to the story, but I instead felt that perhaps Eve had some form of a split personality and Bénédicte was one manifestation. After all, we know her name only as Eve, but we know it's not her real name, so couldn't that have been another personality? Or perhaps this name was chosen as some form of a Biblical clue, that Eve is telling us all lies and leading us down the wrong path. Part of me thinks I could argue it is a possibility, but I'm comfortable with the more grounded in reality ending of two separate people in different decades that intertwine with each other because of one house.
2. What did you think of the characters? Lawrenson took us on a twisty little ride there, I had trouble deciding who was good and who wasn't for a while! What do you think of Dom? Of Sabine? Rachel?
Surprisingly, the characters all end up exactly as we are initially introduced to them. While Dom's secrets are explained away, I still found him to be a bit mysterious and didn't trust the story all the way through. But I kept thinking that Eve gave us all of the facts for everything else, why couldn't she have provided us the evidence that Rachel really did die in that clinic? Somewhat odd, right? Rachel seemed to be a snake, but that was only if I believe Dom, and again, Eve never shared anything concrete that was proven that Rachel did die in the clinic (unless I missed an entire page or something...?) I still didn't like Sabine and thought she was someone who shouldn't be trusted. She's so shady with her interactions with Eve and I know that most of it is because Sabine may not have trusted Eve either, but still. I didn't like her that much in the end.
3. Pierre was such a conflicted character. In the end, do you think he killed Marthe and Annette, or did they fall to their deaths because of their blindness?
Oh, Pierre, that disgusting character. While I initially thought that Bénédicte killed Annette and Marthe and that would be the surprising twist, I completely believe after closing the final pages that Pierre was a sick man his whole life, brutally attacked Annette, and then killed her and Marthe. No doubt in my mind. Pierre was a beast of filth and in my reader's hope for revenge, I wished he met a much more appropriate passing than the seemingly easy one he ultimately experienced.
4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier's writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description?
This is my only gripe, and it is minor. Perhaps it is because I read Rebecca so very recently a few weeks ago, that I didn't always care for the exact mentions of Du Maurier throughout The Lantern. I instead, preferred when Eve would allude to Du Maurier with similarities, but when one specific chapter started out with the exact opening of a Du Maurier short story, I was a little annoyed by it. (I'm referencing a chapter when the first sentence is Dom telling Eve "Don't look now," which is also the title and opening sentence of Du Maurier's short story. Maybe I wouldn't have minded it as much if I had read Rebecca years ago and then read The Lantern now.
5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?
I didn't mind the alternating perspectives of the two women or the plot. I enjoyed all of it quite a bit.
6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?
I do think both stories were tied well together, and the only thing I would have wished for more of were Rachel's articles, or maybe a few letters or newspaper clippings. I think the addition of more of that would have heightened the atmosphere and overall Gothic feel of the novel quite a bit. Ultimately though, I was satisfied with this story and thoroughly enjoyed it.
7. One problem I had with the novel was the reliability of the narrators. Do you think any of them were telling the truth? Which ones?
I actually didn't mind this. It lent to the overall uneasiness of the mysteries and ambiguity of the characters, which is part of the reason why I love these types of stories. More, please!
About the Author (from the book)
Deborah Lawrenson spent her formative years moving around the world with diplomatic service parents, living in Kuwait, China, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Singapore. She studied English at Cambridge University, and has worked as a journalist for various publications in England, including the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, and Woman's Journal magazine. She is married, with a daughter, and lives in Kent, England. She and her family spend as much time as possible at a crumbling hamlet in Provence, France, the setting for The Lantern.
The Lantern is her first novel to be published in the United States.
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This is the final discussion installment for Peril of the Group Read. Click here to see other thoughts for the book.