1. Now that it's all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?
I liked the book, but didn't love it as much as I hoped to. I kind of thought the end fizzled a little bit. The ties that bound the two stories together, other than the house itself, were a little loose for my liking.
I am not sure what I think about the ending of Benedicte's story. There does seem to be a certain irony in the fact that she was losing her sight, but felt that the condition that she was diagnosed with was too convenient an explanation for the visions that she was having. I was both surprised and not surprised when we found out about her guilty secret that she carried around with her for all those years.
I do really love the idea of gothic novels, especially a modern gothic, and this book is a good example of this style of storytelling.
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 am going to start with the character that I struggled with the most in terms of characterisation and that is Rachel. I was reading the section of the book where we find out exactly what happened and for a little while there was appalled that she was going to be blamed for what happened to her. That isn't what ended up happening at all, but it sure felt like that was what was coming.
As for Dom, I am still undecided about how I feel about him days after I finished the book.We found out why he was so secretive about what happened with Rachel, why he was reluctant to talk to Eve at all but I actually don't feel like we got to know him as a person very much at all, other than the fact that he was rich and musical.
Sabine was quite the piece of work in the end wasn't she. I found her manipulative especially of Eve and to a lesser extent to Rachel, using both of them to try and further her own cause. I was kind of surprised when Eve suggested that they might end up being friends.
Finally...Eve. There were certain parts of the book where I wanted to shout at Eve, particularly as she accepted the treatment that she was receiving from Dom, including being isolated from her support network etc, being led around by Sabine etc. I was so pleased when she finally confronted him and showed some gumption, but then she undid that by starting to keep her own secrets too.
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?
I was disappointed in the one dimensional portrayal of him. I know we had a motivation for why he was as he was once he was older but there didn't seem to be any nuances when it came to him. I guess that there are some people who are nasty kids who grow up into nasty adults, but in some ways he would been a much scarier character if you actually didn't know which Pierre you were getting. Maybe that is what the author was trying to achieve by saying that Marthe hadn't or couldn't see this aspect of Pierre's personality?
I definitely think he killed Annette, and most likely Marthe too, although I am thinking that perhaps Marthe's death was more accidental given her blindness and the empty pool. Maybe she fell, maybe she didn't. At the end of the day I would count Pierre as being accountable for both deaths.
4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier's writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description?
In my experience as soon as those kinds of labels are placed on an authors, there is an almost inevitable raising of expectations on the part of readers and almost as inevitably people may be disappointed. Let's put it this way, I don't think that in fifty years time someone will be saying that a new book is like The Lantern.
That kind of sounds as though I didn't enjoy the book which isn't really the case. There were things that the author did really well - for example, the details which made the book a delight for the senses. The smells, the sights, the taste - all came to life through the words on the page and I would quite happily have read those passages over and over.
I mentioned in a previous post that I think that I would have enjoyed this book so much more if I had of just kept reading and not actually stopped to think about the characters and the plot. It was very readable, and I could quite easily imagine myself there in the Provence countryside.
5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?
Sometimes it was a little unclear which story we were reading in each new chapters, especially seeing as some times the narrative swapped in every chapter but then there would be several chapters of one narrator.
6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?
I don't know about could/should have done differently because, after all, this is the author's creative work and so she brings to bear all of her life experiences, all of her agendas and more to create her work.
The house was more than adequate to tie the two stories together but I am not sure about the other symbols such as the lantern itself, and also the other murders that it was inferred were connected to the characters in the book.
I was just struck by the thought that houses bear witness to so much (if an inanimate object can be said to witness anything). Think how many people a house might have living in it over an extended period of time. The joy, the sadness, the laughter and the tears, especially if it is a house like the one in the book that has been home to generations of people over hundreds of years!
I was wondering about Benedicte was going to fit into the modern storyline and thought that the way that particular aim was achieved was actually quite clever in terms of the way she got to tell her story and explained a lot about how the older storyline was being told through out the earlier parts of the story.
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?
Ah, unreliable narrators. Where would this kind of storytelling be without them? It's a bit like all the foreshadowing comments. Both were in place to act as hooks to keep you hoping that you would find out exactly what is going on...eventually.
I think this quote summarised this quite well. Often, as readers, we like things to be linear, to be neat and tidy, but sometimes they just aren't!
All of which goes to show how dangerous it is to assume connections where there are none, to link events that have no link, to want tidy storytelling when real life is not like that, to draw too much on the imagination when it is so often misleading. (Page 381)
I wanted to say a special thanks to Carl for hosting this readalong, and to Kailana and Heather who contributed questions and to Netgalley for provided me with an E-Arc. I started reading that, but ended up also getting the book from the library once I knew that I had to spread the reading out for readalong purposes!.
A modern gothic novel of love, secrets, and murder—set against the lush backdrop of Provence
Meeting Dom was the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom in Switzerland, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les GenÉvriers, an abandoned house set among the fragrant lavender fields of the South of France. Each enchanting day delivers happy discoveries: hidden chambers, secret vaults, a beautiful wrought-iron lantern. Deeply in love and surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive.
But with autumn’s arrival the days begin to cool, and so, too, does Dom. Though Eve knows he bears the emotional scars of a failed marriage—one he refuses to talk about—his silence arouses suspicion and uncertainty. The more reticent Dom is to explain, the more Eve becomes obsessed with finding answers—and with unraveling the mystery of his absent, beautiful ex-wife, Rachel.
Like its owner, Les Genevriers is also changing. Bright, warm rooms have turned cold and uninviting; shadows now fall unexpectedly; and Eve senses a presence moving through the garden. Is it a ghost from the past or a manifestation of her current troubles with Dom? Can she trust Dom, or could her life be in danger?
Eve does not know that Les Genevriers has been haunted before. Benedicte Lincel, the house’s former owner, thrived as a young girl within the rich elements of the landscape: the violets hidden in the woodland, the warm wind through the almond trees. She knew the bitter taste of heartbreak and tragedy—long-buried family secrets and evil deeds that, once unearthed, will hold shocking and unexpected consequences for Eve.