Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

Jane Hudson never thought she would return to Heart Lake. Her years there as a scholarship girl ended in a double tragedy: the drowning of her two roommates.

Now she is back, adjusting to her new life teaching Latin and as a single mother. But the events that haunted her memories for so many years begin to recur in front of her eyes. It seems she alone can see what is happening, and only she will be able to prevent a second catastrophe...

Surrounded by the lake that gives the school its name, steeped in history and overflowing with the emotions of teenage girls, Heart Lake guards its past - but cannot keep it hidden.

When Jane Hudson returns to her school after many years away, it is a chance to return to a place that feels like home, as long as she doesn't think about the tragic events of her final year. Jane has just separated from her husband, and is returning to the workforce as a single mum teaching Latin. Unfortunately, as much as Jane doesn't want to think about the events that claimed the lives of her friends in very strange circumstances, there is someone else who wants Jane to remember. Somehow, someone has got hold of Jane's old diary that went missing in her final year of school and is leaving pages around for her to find. More scarily, events are being manipulated so that there are a new group of girls who seem to be reenacting the events from 20 years before.

Having subsequently read a couple of other Carol Goodman books (reviews still to come), I have come to the conclusion that one of her aims it to try and show as much as she can of what she knows. Maybe it is to try and give her books some kind of point of difference to other mystery/suspense type books by finding something and sharing it. In this case a lot of the emphasis was around Latin, and in other books it has been Celtic and Classical myths, and glass making. That in itself isn't a bad thing but there are times when it feels just a bit too clever. I think that part of the reason why it worked for me in this book was because it was the first time that I had read one of her books, but there is at least one other of her books where it just didn't work for me at all.

There are a lot of topics covered in this novel particularly around issues that many young girls face - sex, self harm, suicide, abuse, and to be honest it isn't a particularly cheerful novel. It has an almost mystical/gothic feel to many of the events in the book, and that feeling isn't redeemed by the solution.

Whilst I liked this book when I first finished it, the more I think about it, the more holes I find in it. Even when I first finished the book, the biggest problem that I had is with the ending, which whilst not coming completely out of the blue, wasn't far off of it, but I guess I was sufficiently interested in Goodman's writing to keep reading her books. So far I have read three, and have another on the TBR pile. For a debut this was a pretty good read - it remains to be seen and whether Goodman can maintain a consistent quality to her writing. At this stage I personally am not convinced that she has.

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

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  1. Hi, Marg! Thanks for your message about the McMurtry books. I honestly didn't know Lonesome Dove was part of a series. I picked it for the Pulitzer Prize Project, but now I am wondering about the other books (I hate reading books out of order - I am so compulsive).

    Take care,
    Jill =)

  2. I read this a couple of years ago. I thought it was pretty good. Not great. And yes, there were many holes in the book. But it was decent. Of course, I haven't yet read anything else by her, so maybe I was more underwhelmed than I thought!

  3. Jill, I hate reading stuff out of order as well, which is why as soon as I found out that there were four books I decided to read them in order. I want to get to Lonesome Dove for the Pulitzer Project as well.

    Stephanie, I will have reviews up in the next few days for the other books I have read by her. I really liked one, and really didn't like the other one. I now have the Sonnet Lover on my TBR pile. My other obsession. other than reading things in order, is reading the entire backlist of authors!

  4. Carol Goodman is one of my favorite authors, but I agree, while The Lake of Dead Languages has several holes in it, she has such a lyrical way of writing (imo) that I don't really mind.

    I really liked The Drowning Tree and the Seduction of Water. Did you see she has a new one out?

  5. Hayden, I really enjoyed The Seduction of Water, but wasn't so keen on The Drowning Tree. I will have reviews up shortly for them both.

  6. I read this one a while back and I quite liked it. I thought I was going to read more of her books, but haven't yet gotten around to it ;-)


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