Friday, July 29, 2011

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

The Lantern: A Novel The best word I can think of to describe The Lantern is dreamy. It moves slowly but with dark mysterious undercurrents. The story of Les Genevriers (The Junipers), an 1887 farmhouse in Provence, is told alternately by Benedicte, a woman who lived there her whole life (and perhaps continues to live there after death) and Eve, who has come to live there with her lover, Dom. Both Eve and Dom are British; Dom buys Les Genevriers after Benedicte's death.

My one complaint about The Lantern is that the point of view changes abruptly without any indication. Many times I read several paragraphs before I realized it was Eve rather than Benedicte, or vice versa. Perhaps Lawrenson thought that was clever; I found it annoying.

Benedicte's story is heart wrenching. Her older sister gradually goes blind so Benedicte becomes her eyes. She goes to work in the lavender fields during the German occupation of France. Her blind sister is working at a perfume company developing new scents and wants to know everything about lavender and its distillation. But this idyllic story is underscored by the danger of living with their evil brother, as well as the nagging fear of the Nazi occupiers to the north.

The other story shows Eve arriving at the house in the early throes of deep passionate love, but there are always doubts in the back of her mind. She doesn't know much about Dom, who seems to be in the grip of a mysterious memory. He isn't in touch with his family and there is the question of what became of his wife. Why won't he talk about her? Why is he so moody? They remain isolated in the house as Eve's questions and Dom's torment grow.

Lawrenson's depiction of the house and gardens as well as the people of the nearby village is masterful. I could feel the atmosphere and see the house. There are sealed up rooms, strange sounds, a stain on the kitchen floor that Eve can't scrub away, and haunting scents that seem to come from the very walls of the house.

I had trouble getting into this book but once I did, I was hooked. I recommend The Lantern, which is coming out in September.


  1. Dark undercurrents? Oh, I am tempted.

  2. I would get totally annoyed over the ambiguous POVs! But so glad to read this review, since I have this ARC also!

  3. I requested this ARC but never received it. It does sound good, even though it was tough to get into. Just sounds good.

  4. Thanks for your comments, Dorte, Jill and Diane. Jill, I do hope you'll like it despite that one glitch of POV. Diane, I wish you had it too; I think you'd like it. Dorte, it'll be out in Sept.

  5. I love books that are told from multiple points of view, but the transitions need to be written so that I know who the narrator is all the time, or I get irritated. The book sounds good, but I may have to think about it.

  6. Sounds very atmospheric, and I see what you mean about the lavender connection. Any luck with taking the kitties to the vet yet? They'll be healthier and happier once they've been...

  7. I just got this book in my summer book order and am looking forward to reading it even more so with your great review. It is one of the selections of the TV Book Club in the UK which is how I discovered it.

    Greetings from Holland ~

  8. Kathy, It is certainly annoying about the POV, but it's really a good story. I think you would like it.

    Barbara, You probably already know of Lawrenson but this is the first of her novels to be published in the U.S. so she's new to us.

    Unfortunately, the kittens are just too wild to catch. And my husband has said he's not going to pay to get them all fixed. It breaks my heart but we're just going to feed them outside and hope for the best.

    Heidi, I think you're my first commenter from Holland, which is very exciting to me. Thank you for your comment. I do hope your enjoy the book and that you'll return to my blog.