Wednesday, August 10, 2011

THE LANTERN by Deborah Lawrenson

THE LANTERN - Deborah Lawrenson
Harper (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-06-209186-4
August 2011

Provence, France - Present Day and the Past

When Eve meets Dom, a wealthy, successful older man, she immediately falls for his charm. With him, she feels the safety and stability she’s craved throughout her life, and senses that they are kindred spirits. So, when he asks her to move with him to France after only a few months of dating, Eve recklessly agrees. Life is idyllic as they explore and renovate Les Genévriers, the charming but ramshackle farmhouse Dom bought, finding unique treasures in the place that is swiftly becoming home. But as the seasons change, so to does their relationship, and Eve starts to question how well she knows the man she is living with. Strange occurrences in the house have also spooked her, and Eve’s doubts continue to grow.

Bénédicte Lincel has lived at Les Genévriers almost all of her life, her family being the owners of the farmhouse and the hamlet surrounding it for generations. Now though, she is the only one left, and she is being haunted by the ghosts of her siblings. As she struggles to get through the days, she reminisces about her life; her childhood with her blind sister, Marthe, and cruel brother, Pierre; the downturn the farm takes around the time of the Second World War; and helping her sister to “see” the flowers Marthe would use in her famous perfumes. Always Bénédicte is aware that some of those that will haunt her have reasons, and she is dreading the time that the mistakes of the past will revisit her. For there are secrets at Les Genévriers—secrets that will tear apart the dream-perfect life that Eve is trying to build.

Alternating between the lives of Eve and Bénédicte, THE LANTERN is an intricate tale of suspense and secrets. Growing up, Eve’s parents were constantly warring with one another, both before and after their divorce, leaving both her and her brother unsettled. Dom gives her the peace she’s always looked for, and Les Genévriers offers her the home she’s always craved. Part of her wonders if they hadn’t rushed things, if her impulsive decision to give up her career and life in London won’t come back to haunt her. But in the early, halcyon days of life in the French countryside, Eve is content to create a home and dream of what the future can bring. Bénédicte, born in the 1920’s, grew up unaware of the poverty she lives in, due to the richness of life that surrounds her. The only thing marring the perfection of her life is the cruelty that only she sees in her brother Pierre. Haunted always by the ghosts of her past, the physical manifestations of those she has lost leave Bénédicte worrying and wondering about her future. The stories of the two women, told concurrently, intertwine only at the end, as Eve is impacted by horrific events that Bénédicte is not even fully aware of.

While it starts off a little slow, THE LANTERN is an engrossing story about two very different women and the home that both of them loved.

Jennifer Bishop

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