Thursday, September 01, 2011

Fiction: The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

It’s impossible not to compare The Lantern (Harper) with Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, Rebecca. It’s a comparison that’s not far off the mark. As author Deborah Lawrenson has said, “While at [our house in Provence] our first summer, camping on stone floors, I re-read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and was as captivated by it as ever -- but my thoughts wandered... what if I had come to this place knowing less about the area, or perhaps, less about the man I was with?”

Like Rebecca, The Lantern is alive with livid description that creates the environment almost as another character. Unlike Rebecca, though, we’re not in rural England, but in Southern France where we get to know Eve and Dom, newly in love but both hidden behind veils of secrets. It turns out Dom’s secrets might be too big to hide from. His lovely first wife, Rachel, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. To cloud things further, while they are together, the police show up demanding to question Dom in connection with the disappearance of some local girls.

For the most part, The Lantern is creative and sometimes it’s even lovely, though it seems at times to flag under the weight of its own beauty. Here, the opening lines of the prologue:
Some scents spiral and then quickly disappear, like the effervescence of citrus zest or a bright note of mint. Some are strange siren songs of rarer origin that call from violets hidden in Woodland, or irises after spring rain. Some scents release a rush of half-forgotten memories. And then there are the scents that seem to express truths about people and places that you have never forgotten: the scents that make time stand still.
And there’s more of that. Lots more. Starkly beautiful writing that slows the pace and distances the reader, even while it evokes the sights and scents and breaths of Provence.

Still, The Lantern offers a good premise and a riveting gothic read. And if it’s not Rebecca, well, is that such a bad thing? Really: did the world actually need another one?



Blogger Barbara said...

The scents in that passage have a real place in the novel. One of the main characters loses her sight and becomes a scent inventor at a perfume factory. There are also the mysterious scents that seem to be embedded in the very walls of the house. I loved this book.

Friday, September 2, 2011 at 5:50:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Ann said...

This is a really interesting review. What I'm curious about is why you felt that the beauty of the writing distanced the reader. I read it in quite the opposite way, that the sensuous detail (and you're right, there is a lot of it) draws the reader right into the heart of the story. There were times I felt I was there and I could smell the scents! I too loved this book.

Friday, September 9, 2011 at 4:19:00 AM PDT  

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