So, yeah! It may be 10 days late, but here are my thoughts on the first part of the readalong of The Lantern which is being hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings as part of RIP VI.
I haven't had time to read the book before now but today I had a space in my schedule so I picked this up and have been sucked right into the world! More than anything I want to share my thoughts for my own records!
I feel bad that I am so far behind because what I have read of the book is quite good. I do wonder if it is trying too hard to be …. gothic …. for want of a better description though.
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?
I think I am enjoying the modern storyline more than the past, which is something that I find quite interesting because whenever I read these kinds of books I tend to like the historical story a lot more! Maybe part of the reason for that is that in my usual reads of this nature the two strands tend to be a bit further apart than they are in this book and therefore the two eras aren’t distinct enough in my mind.
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?
I would definitely describe as a sensual read. The author takes great pains to describe the smell, taste, sight and feel of various events. There were lots of passages where I literally stopped just to appreciate the description or to imagine the smell or taste or sights.
Here is an example of a passage that I read a number of times as it really caught my attention from page 60:
We shared a capacity to stay very still and just look, and touch, and smell. Toward the end of summer, we would lie facedown in the courtyard. After the brief, hard rainstorms of late August, the earth was caramel-sweet and spicy, and the warm, smitten flesh of fruit gave off a smoke of incense. I may be imagining this of course. Perhaps memory has rendered these interludes larger-than-life, but it's true we did spend hours simply looking and inhaling, feeling life slowly in close-up, burrowing into our surroundings, eating vanilla pastries with dirt on our fingers.
Marthe loved to talk about the scents and smells of the farm. My sixth sense was never as acute as hers (as I said earlier, my imagination has always been poor, which leads me to worry that the present situation is indeed precisely as I fear) but I could almost always smell what she smelled. Perhaps there was a family nose we both inherited that enabled us to read aromas, some small quirk of nasal membrane or nerve setting that provided an extra sensitivity.
4. How would you describe the atmosphere of Parts 1 and 2 of The Lantern?
Brooding, foreboding. Definitely oh-my-goodness something bad has either happened or is going to happen soon!
5. Has anything surprised you to this point? Anything stand out?
To be honest, I am a little bit surprised at some of the reactions I am having after I stop to think about the book. I am totally engrossed in it as I am reading it, even though I know that I am being led along by the foreshadowing and the hooks that are embedded in the end of a lot of the chapters, designed specifically to keep you reading. When I stop and think about it, I am not as hooked as I thought I was!
As an example of a keep-you-reading hook, I was surprised by Marthe's proclamation in the last of Benedicte's chapters in this section. Marthe is Benedicte's sister.
6. What are your feelings about Dom in these first two sections of the story?
I think we are deliberately being lead to believe that Dom has huge secrets and with the foreshadowing that is being used expected to think the worst of Dom. To be honest though, I think I will be a bit disappointed if the secrets are so obvious as we are being led to believe as there might be a lack of subtlety if that is the case.
In a way, the characters that we are supposed to not like (Dom and Philippe) actually feel a bit cliched to me.
Bonus question: Did anyone else hear "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" ringing in their ears through the first sections of the book?
To me it seems that the author is making a conscious effort to evoke the book Rebecca, to the point of the protagonist that we don’t know the real name of, the use of one of du Maurier’s heroine’s name as the name of the ex wife, especially in the use of isolation – the husband who on the one hand is all encompassing but on the other is emotionally isolated whenever the subject of his ex wife comes up, the way they are pretty isolated as a couple with few visitors, the locale of the house being isolated from the village.
I also wanted to mention that I am a sucker for a story within a story and so loved the use of the fairy tale and also the article as part of the narrative!
I have now finished part 3 and will try to read part 4 tomorrow so that I can be all caught up in time for the end of the readalong! Maybe anyway!