Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

Title: The Lantern
Author: Deborah Lawrenson

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Historical / Provence / Gothic / Marriage / Mystery)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (8/9/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: LOVED, like top 10 of 2011 l-o-v-e-d!
Did I finish?: Yes, another record read in 3ish hours.
One-sentence summary: One rambling house in Provence connects two women as both struggle with the secrets that permeate their lives.
Reading Challenges: British Books, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Yes -- it's so pretty and reminiscent of the architectural feel of the novel's setting.

I'm reminded of...: Daphne du Maurier, Kate Morton, Amanda Prantera

First line: Some scents sparkle and then quickly disappear, like the effervescence of citrus zest or a bright note of mint.

Do... I wish I could live at Les Genévriers?: YES. Though falling apart, the hamlet seems to have this Anthropologie, French shabby chic thing going that I eat up with a spoon. I want!

Did... I love every character in this book?: YES. Even the unlikeable ones felt real, bursting from the pages, and I loved to love -- or loved to hate -- all of them.

Am... I searching for lavender scents now?: YES. One of the characters works harvesting lavender and the myriad of descriptions of the fragrance have me in the mood to wallow in the smell.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy, right now. Read it this weekend. It's absolutely wonderful.

Why did I get this book?: Rebecca is one of my all-time favorite reads and when I saw this book being compared to Rebecca, I was intrigued. Plus, it's set in France and I can't say no to an armchair escape.

Review: Here's my advice: buy this book and then put aside a whole morning or afternoon to dive in because I promise you're not going to want to stop. Interruptions will be painful. (Have someone bring tea or wine, though, because the story begs for that.)

At first, I thought this was going to be a literal retelling of Rebecca. The heroine, a younger woman, has a whirlwind romance with a moody older man -- Dom -- who is tight-lipped about his charismatic first wife, Rachel. Like du Maurier's book, the heroine in The Lantern is unnamed (although Lawrenson kindly has Dom give her a nickname for us to use, 'Eve'). The Lantern even has the iconic 'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again' scene, when Eve dreams of Les Genévriers, the rambling hamlet she and Dom reside. Very quickly, though, it came clear that this novel is an homage to du Maurier's classic but still its own creature.

Alternating Eve's story is Bénédicte's, a woman who grew up at Les Genévriers during World War II and worked in the lavender fields and faced her own dark mystery. At first, I was impatient with the switching stories -- I just wanted to know what was going on with Dom -- but within two or three chapters, Bénédicte's story grabbed me as well. Her twisted, dangerous brother Pierre and her talented sister Marthe were as much a part of Les Genévriers and the story as the swimming pool and gorgeous countryside.

Eve had the right mix of naivete and obliviousness to make the story work realistically, without making me want to shake her for being a mouse (something I occasionally wanted to do to du Maurier's heroine). I greatly appreciated that Lawrenson didn't just wave away technology -- Eve does internet research, like an reasonably curious person would do -- and she gives Eve modern attitudes and behaviors. Eve confronts Dom in a way that du Maurier's heroine never could.

Lawrenson's writing style is lovely: evocative enough to give a strong sense of place but without too much ornamentation. The story races with impending danger even in the pensive places (although perhaps that was just me, unwilling to slow down!) and has the same sort of romantic gloominess of du Maurier's novel. Wisely, Lawrenson's novel is more than just what-happened-to-Dom's-wife -- du Maurier's novel set the bar so high I'm not sure any other book could do it well without seeming contrived -- and her mixing of historical mystery with a modern day Bluebeard is delightful.

Bottom line: get this book now (and thank me later!).

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Lantern to one reader. To enter, simply comment on this entry with an email address. Open to US/CA readers, ends 9/2. For another entry, be sure to come back for my interview with Deborah Lawrenson.


  1. This sounds wonderful! I can't believe you plowed through it in just a threee hours! That says a lot about how good it must be.

  2. This is one of my next reads, and I admit, now you've got me chomping at the bit to read it. I need a book that I can get completely engrossed in, and it seems like this one will be that book. Fantabulous review on this one. Your excitement and enthusiasm really spills over!

  3. Now you've got me super excited to read this one. Please count me in for the giveaway!

    teresasreadingcorner at gmail.com

  4. I want to read this book so badly, I barely skim reviews - don't want to know too much! But I couldn't miss your enthusiasm, and that just underscores how much I want to read it! Thanks so much for the chance to win a copy.

    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  5. @Ti: it was an effortless three hours, too! I wanted more!

    @Heather: I can't wait to see what you think of it. I loved this one so hardcore!

    @Teresa: I think you'd adore this one!

    @Gwendolyn: I tried not to spoil but I am so with you on skimming reviews -- but I'm glad you got the important part, which is that it's awesome! ;)

  6. This one is on my radar! Please count me in. Thanks so much!

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  7. Oh no, not another good one! Lol, yes I have said it before, you are on a roll. I want these awesome books too

  8. Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

  9. Looks like a great book to read... I would love to get my hands on it....



    Love your side panels.


    Looking forward to your review. Mine will be posted on August 25.



  11. I would definitely love to read this!


  12. it's only because of you that I've heard of this! Your review of this book makes me want to try Rebecca for the first time!

  13. Okay, now I have to read this -- count me in.

    jmartinez0415 [at] gmail [dot] com

  14. I'd wanted to read this because of its resemblance to Rebecca but then decided not to because I wasn't sure how good it would be. I think I'll pick it up now. :)

    A modern-day Bluebeard? I'm definitely intrigued.

    susanna DOT pyatt AT student DOT rcsnc DOT org

  15. Please count me in this giveaway too! Would love to have three delicious hours to enjoy this book. And the book of course!


  16. Oh my gosh, this book has been on my wishlist for a while! Thanks for the giveaway!

    jesse.nicole.paul (at) gmail (dot) com

  17. This one sounds fantastic! Thanks for the giveaway.


  18. Please enter me in the draw!

    My email address is darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  19. I've already heard such great things about this book and now I feel super excited to read this sometime soon!! I never did get around to reading Rebecca but that's one I need to get to as well! Please enter me: jennala(at)cfl.rr.com

  20. wonderful review! but not quite sure just 'how much' you like it??? "))
    you already have me heading for my lavender sachets for delicious refreshment tonite as i sleep...
    thank you!
    and for the generous giveaway ")

  21. Really looking forward to reading this one! Please count me in :)


  22. I think this sounds so good. Would love to read it.

    Seasidebooknook {at} yahoo

  23. I've heard such great things about this book. I'd love to win it.


  24. I have heard about this book and would love to read it. It is on my to read list, but to win a copy would be awesome!!



  25. Well if it can be read in 3 hours and make you upset to be interrupted, I'll definitely have to keep it in mind. You do a great job expanding my ever-growing "to read someday" list!

    diaryofaneccentric at hotmail dot com

  26. i'm in. IN. you make this one sound so gorgeous.
    vvb32 at yahoo.com

  27. thanks for the chanc to read this beautiful story :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  28. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this and that you are offering a giveaway. This one has been on my watch list and looks divine. I would love to be entered.

    Thanks for a stunning review.

    savvyverseandwit at gmail

  29. Aw man! I actually requested this one through NetGalley and was approved, but I was a lazy butt and the download expired before I got around to it. I am going to enter your giveaway because your review has really made me kick myself for procrastinating and missing out on what sounds like a great read as a result!

  30. Count me in!! This sounds like one of the good ones, and I can't wait to read it! Thanks for an awesome giveaway:)
    jwitt33 at live dot com

  31. I'm so glad you liked this one too! I thought it was such a fun read, and I agree: it would have been ideal for an afternoon and a few glasses of wine. I'm even more eager to read Rebecca now too; I still can't believe I've never read it!

  32. Hi Audra, I am happy to see that you loved this book. I debated about whether I might enjoy it and finally downloaded the eBook. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us.

  33. It sounds great and one I'd love to read.
    Please enter me into the draw.

  34. Would love to read it!



  35. OOOOoooo..I may just buy this asap! Your review has me very excited about this book. I read somewhere that it had gothic elements similar to Daphne du Maurier's work so I'm excited to see that she is one of the authors of which you are reminded. I love your description of Lawrenson's writing style, too! Thank you, Audra!

    Please enter me in your giveaway!

  36. I loved Rececca and I'm sure I will love reading The Lantern.
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  37. Thanks for the chance!

    unforgetable_dreamer_always (at) hotmail (dot) com

  38. Looks like I didn't initially enter this giveaway, an omission I'm now correcting

    arcookson at yahoo dot com

  39. When you said it was one of the top ten of 2011 I was hooked. I just have to read this book.

    clenna at aol dot com

  40. Looking forward to this book!

  41. I've heard excellent things about this and the more I read about it the more I want to try it!

    Thanks for the giveaway. I'd love to be entered!

    tardis5445 AT gmail DOT com

  42. This book sounds so good. So many reviewers have just loved it! Thanks so much for the chance to win it!

    Jilleenhays AT yahoo DOT com

  43. When you like a book this much I have to put it on my TBR list.

  44. I absolutely love Rebecca so I am pretty sure I would love this!

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

  45. I've wanted this one since I started reading the reviews on it. LOVED Rebecca and the feel of it .. and I love Kate Morton as well. I already have it on my to-buy list, but your review makes me want to buy it faster! Thanks for the chance to win!


  46. WOW! This one sounds AMAZING! I plan to read it myself this fall.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  47. Ok, Audra, so last time on David Liss's book, I said give it to someone else more deserving... but this time, PLEASE think about giving this one to me!! I've been dying for this book. Your post/review makes it even more a positive for me. The cover is gorgeous and I've read the synopsis several times. It's a must-have for me. Save me from scrounging!! Hugs, Deborah/TheBookishDame

    thebookishdame at aol dot com

  48. This one is definitely on my "to read" list!!