Posts Tagged With: the lantern

“The Lantern” by Deborah Lawrenson

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been participating in a group read of Deborah Lawrenson’s “The Lantern.”  Now that it’s ended, I’d just like to take a few moments to post a spoiler-free review of the novel, which has been compared by others to Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca.”

“The Lantern” is a gothic romance set in Provence.  Eve thinks the world of her boyfriend Dom, but starts to question why he is so secretive about his past.  When she asks him about his ex-wife Rachel, he becomes angry and refuses to speak of her.  Meanwhile, Eve gradually becomes aware that the house they live in is haunted…

The perspective alternates between Eve’s story and that of Benedicte, the woman who formerly owned the house.  Benedicte tells the story of her sister Marthe, a blind woman who became famous for creating perfumes reminiscent of the scents of the French countryside.  Marthe mysteriously vanished when she was middle-aged.

The novel is filled with lavish descriptions of the scents of Provence.  For some readers, this might seem a bit much, but one must bear in mind that the novel does include a character who is blind.  As a whole, the novel has a relaxed pace but a suspenseful feel.  Eve is a bit flighty, but I am willing to overlook that because she does show in the beginning that she loves literature.  Overall, the novel is a pretty good read.  It’s not going to become a classic of our era, but it’s relatively well-written and entertaining.

Categories: Fiction, Horror/Gothic, Romance | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

“The Lantern” Readalong, Part 3

This week is the final installment of the readalong of Deborah Lawrenson’s “The Lantern,” hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings as a part of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge.

This week’s questions were written by Heather.

From this point onward, there will be spoilers.  I’ll post a spoiler-free review later in the week for anyone who hasn’t been reading along.

1. Now that it’s all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?

So last week, when Dom mentioned that Rachel had cancer, I speculated that there was a euthanasia situation.  I wanted to like Dom, and was hoping that whatever it was that he did was morally questionable rather than flat-out evil.  I was excited when I found out that I had guessed it!

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot.  It was a bit lighter and more flowery than what I normally read, but the gothic feel and descriptions of Provence made the novel.  It was far better than I expected.

2. What do 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 there! What do you think of Dom? Of Sabine? Rachel?

I’ve got some choice words to describe Rachel that I’m not going to post her.  She’s a little *expletives deleted.*  There are some things you just don’t do, and telling a guy you’re pregnant in order to manipulate him is one of them.

I’ve liked Dom throughout the novel.  Yes, he’s a wee bit angsty, but given that he put up with Rachel for so long, I can understand why he’s emotionally a wreck.

Sabine’s a neighborly busybody who is at the same time very naive.  If Rachel would have leveled with her instead of telling her fabricated stories or distortions of reality, then I don’t think she would have been so secretive throughout the book.

3. Pierre was such a conflicted character. In the end, do you think he killed Marthe and Annette, or did the fall to their deaths because of their blindness?

He totally killed them.  After what he did to Annette, he probably didn’t want her to tell anyone.  If I saw what happened, he saw Marthe sitting there and a little push was all it took to get rid of her, then dealt with Annette.  I could have believed their deaths to be accidental, except for the fact that he was there when they disappeared and he lied about Marthe being alive in order to get even with Benedicte.

4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier’s writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description?

I haven’t read “Rebecca,” so I have no comment on this one.

5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?

I’m going to answer this one with the next question.

6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?

The only real problem that I had with this story is that there was no obvious way to tell who was speaking.  Lawrenson should have either italicized Benedicte’s segments or titled each chapter with the name of the narrator.  Either one would have made it much easier for the reader to picture who is speaking at any given time.  Aside from that, I liked the two narrators, and I love the way that the stories all tied themselves together in the end.

7. One problem I had with the novel is the reliability of the narrators. Do you think any of them were telling the truth? Which ones?

I think the fact that each of our narrators had a limited perspective made the story more believable, and it was nice to think of each of the characters as having their own motivations and limitations.  I liked how we learned that Benedicte’s ghosts were a product of her limited sight, but at the same time Eve experiences Benedicte’s ghost flipping through an old childhood book.

Other Thoughts

The one other thing that I’d like to mention is that I enjoyed the fact that there was no serial killer, but rather a lot of unrelated events that we assumed were tied together.  It’s a giant red herring, and I appreciated it.  I’m glad that Dom didn’t end up being completely evil or psychotic, but instead very human.

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to check out everyone else’s blog posts and responses!

Categories: Fiction, Horror/Gothic, Romance | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

“The Lantern” Readalong, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of “The Lantern” readalong!  This week’s segments held many surprises!

This readalong is part of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge (hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings).  Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ posts!

Questions for this week were written by Kailana.  The photograph to the left is by ladyofshalott, and I thought it suited the overall feel of the story rather well.

From this point on, there are likely to be spoilers from parts III & IV of the novel.  Next week’s questions will cover part V.  Enjoy!

1. The title of this book is The Lantern, and a lantern makes an appearance in both of the stories. In Benedicte’s past, it had a meaning, but what do you think the lantern signifies in her future and in Eve’s story?

To me, the appearance of the lantern ties together the two major storylines found in the novel.  For Benedicte, it meant the arrival of her former lover.  For Eve, it signified that all wasn’t as it seemed.  The lantern showed up around the same time as the bodies, so I’m thinking that it was a motif symbolizing the connection between the past and the present.  I’m curious as to whether Benedicte is still alive, and whether she will personally come into Eve’s life at some point in the next section.

2. Carl mentioned scents in last weeks questions, but they have been addressed even more in these sections. What significance do you think scents have in this story overall?

Seeing Marthe’s place in the story explored in greater depth gives an additional context to the descriptions of scents in the novel.  Because of her blindness, she is very perceptive in terms of scent, allowing her to become famous for her perfume formulas.  I think that Lawrenson’s use of scent as a part of her sensory descriptions adds a nice flavor to her descriptions of Provence, and lets us feel more of what Marthe does in addition to the other characters.

3. What do you think of the combining storyline of Marthe? She connects Benedicte, Eve, and Rachel. What do you think will be revealed about this connection in the next sections?

I’m betting that Pierre killed Marthe and Annette.  I see no other reason for their abrupt disappearance, and Rachel seemed to be close to discovering what happened to them.  I’m thinking there’s also a connection to the serial killer somewhere in there… could it be Pierre?  I could be completely off, but I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility.

4. Now that things are beginning to move along, what do you think of the characters? Are any standing out for you? Do you particularly like any? Dislike any?

I like Marthe’s character a lot.  Pierre… well, let’s just say that this segment cemented my animosity toward him.  Dom is becoming a bit more complex now that he’s admitted that Rachel’s dead.  I’m wondering if she really had cancer, and my suspicion is that he may have killed her in a euthanasia situation.  I’d be satisfied with that.  Again, I could be completely wrong…

5. What do you think really happened to Marthe and Annette? What do you think the significance of the bones in the pool are to the story? Especially now that it has been revealed that Rachel is also dead.

I’m pretty sure that Marthe and Annette are the bodies under the pool.  Pierre killed them while Benedicte left the farm.  It does make me wonder how he got the bones under there.  I’m hoping that Dom is telling the truth about Rachel, but I don’t think that either of the bodies belongs to her.

6. Do you have any other things you think are significant to talk about? Are there any other predictions to be made for the last two sections of the book?

I already predicted a few things for the rest of the book, with no guarantees as to their accuracy.  I really like the way that Lawrenson is able to connect the different storylines between past and present in order to tie her stories together.  I can’t wait to read the last section to see how everything comes together in the end.

7. Lastly, what do you think of this book overall? Other than for the read-along, why are you reading it? Is it meeting your expectations?

Overall, I’m loving it.   I’ve seen the title come up a lot recently, and was curious to see what it was about.  I’m glad that the focus is more gothic than romance, and that the novel is so complex while at the same time being filled with beautiful descriptions of Provence.  It’s far better than I expected.

Categories: Fiction, Horror/Gothic, Romance | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

“The Lantern” Readalong, Part 1

Happy Columbus Day! (Although it must be said that I think that Columbus was a horrible human being and should not be looked upon as a role model, based on his own writing about his conduct upon discovering the new world…)

As a part of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge (hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings), I’m participating in a readalong of Deborah Lawrenson’s “The Lantern,” a gothic novel set in an old house in Provence.

The book is broken down into five sections.  This week’s discussion questions were written by Carl, and cover the first two sections of the novel.  Next week’s discussion will focus on sections three and four, and then the week after we’ll wrap up the readalong with section five.

From this point on, there may be spoilers from the first two sections of the book.  Be warned!

1.  This may seem like an obvious opening question, but what do you think of The Lantern thus far?

So far, I’m a fan.  I had no preconceived notions of the book, as I hadn’t heard of it before the groupread.  Lawrenson’s writing is beautiful, and she’s able to evoke an aura of suspense and mystery.  I find myself wanting to know more about each of the characters, and I’m extremely curious about Rachel.

2.  The book appears to be following the experiences of two different women, alternating back and forth between their stories.  Are you more fond of our main protagonist’s story or of Benedicte’s or are you enjoying them both equally?

At first, I enjoyed Eve’s story far more than Benedicte’s, but I think Benedicte’s story just had a slow start.  I’m rather curious as to what happened to Pierre.  Obviously he’s dead, and he was a little shit when he was alive, but why is he haunting Benedicte now?  What secrets are buried in the past?

3.  The Lantern is a book filled with descriptions of scents.  How are you liking (or disliking) that aspect of the book?  How do you feel about the lavish description of scents? How are the short chapters working for you?

Scents are rather integral to the story, and often hint at supernatural or ominous presences.  I think that they go far in helping to create the atmosphere of the story.  I like the short chapters; I do much of my reading while commuting or on lunch break, so I like having convenient stopping points throughout the story.  It’s better than having to stop mid-page.

4.  How would you describe the atmosphere of Parts 1 and 2 of The Lantern?

Hmm… quaint European storybook village meets “Under the Tuscan Sun,” except that it’s all haunted.  It’s creepier because everything is so pretty and full of light, but with such dark undertones.  Add to that an understood literary backdrop, and you have “The Lantern.”

5.  Has anything surprised you to this point?  Anything stand out?

I want to know more about Rachel, and why Dom freaks out every time her name is mentioned.  I suspect that he might have had something to do with her disappearance.  I also want to know what’s up with the swimming pool–it’s hinted that they find something underneath, but what?  I like the way that Lawrenson manages to tie together Eve and Benedicte’s lives through a book of stories.  It’s so poetic.

6.  What are your feelings about Dom in these first two sections of the story?

There’s a poem in Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things” called Instructions that seems to fit very well here.  I think that Eve needs to watch her step.  The handsome stranger with a mysterious past generally keeps his past hidden for a reason.  If he seems to good to be true, don’t trust him!

On one hand, I find myself liking Dom and thinking that he’d be nice to spend time with.  On the other hand, every time he starts acting like a creep when Rachel is mentioned, I start to wonder why Eve puts up with him.  The only reason I have to mistrust him aside from that is Eve’s revelation earlier in the book that Dom did something terrible.  I find myself hoping that it wasn’t murder.

Concluding Thoughts

Thus far, I’m loving the book.  I had to tear myself away from it to keep from reading ahead, because I need to know what happens next.  Lawrenson’s writing is beautiful, and I enjoy that she seems to be well-read.  I can’t wait to hear everyone else’s thoughts on the novel!

Categories: Fiction, Horror/Gothic, Romance | Tags: , , , , , | 17 Comments

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