Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern – Group Read Week I (Parts 1 and 2)

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson ebook

This is the first week of Carl’s R.I.P. VI group read of Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern. This week’s questions have been sent by Carl. Here is the link to his post. We have been reading part one and two of the book. It’s safe to read the answers below as they do not contain spoilers. It’s too early in the book. But some of the answers can give you a good impression of whether you want to read the book or not.

The blurb calls The Lantern a novel in the vein of Rebecca. Eve, a young woman, falls in love with a complete stranger. When he asks her to come and live with her in an old beautiful house in the South of France, she abandons her life in London and follows him. The house and its surroundings are enchanting and so seems their life at first. But when Eve begins to ask questions about Dom’s first wife and discovers strange things in the old house, it all starts to change.

1.  This may seem like an obvious opening question, but what do you think of The Lantern thus far?

I am in two minds about it. There are passages that I like for their detailed descriptions and others that I do not like for the exact same reason. Sometimes water is just water. But in The Lantern you will always find a fancy description. Blue-green icy sea water. They do not eat fruit, they eat mulberries and figs and cantaloupes and probably they will taste spicy, caramel-sweet and refreshingly juicy. There is no noun that isn’t accompanied by an adjective. I find this tiring at times. I feel as if I had entered a stuffy old boudoir with too much furniture and knickknacks in it. But then again, at other times, she captures the scents, the aromas, the colors, the light and the flora of the South of France so well, that I enjoy it.

The story is interesting so far and I’m curious to find out what is going to happen next but I’m not overly keen on the characters.

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?

They are both interesting and I want to find out, why the book skips back and forth. One moment we are in the past with Bénédicte, then we are back with Eve. Bénédicte is the more interesting of the two because she is more mysterious. I also think that the parts that are dedicated to her are less fraught with details.

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 like the short chapters. I also enjoy the descriptions of scent but all in all, as I said in my first answer, I think it is overdone. There is too much of it. It has an appeal but at the same time it’s overpowering. The strength of the novel is at the same time its weakness.

4.  How would you describe the atmosphere of Parts 1 and 2 of The Lantern?

Part 1 seemed almost playful, a few hints that things may not be as they seem, but there is a lot of hope, a joyous atmosphere. In part 2 there are more and more strange things going on, there are omens and signs and much more chapters focus on the past.

5.  Has anything surprised you to this point?  Anything stand out?

I’m surprised by the descriptions, how appealing and artificial they are at the same time. I’m also surprised that the story goes back and forth in time and changes between the point of view of the two women.

6.  What are your feelings about Dom in these first two sections of the story?

I simply cannot stand the guy and have no clue why any woman would follow someone who makes a secret out of his past. I wouldn’t trust him at all.

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

I read that it had a lot in common with Rebecca. Maybe the storyline is similar but the writing is so completely different that I didn’t really think of du Maurier’s book.


24 thoughts on “Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern – Group Read Week I (Parts 1 and 2)

  1. Wow…you even paid attention to how the nouns always accompanied by adjective!! I wouldn’t even notice such thing in a book.

    The blurb sounds intriguing. I will follow your readalong and judge whether to buy it or not because I often see this book but not sure about buying it.

    • Maybe from what I wrote so far, it isn’t clear that it is a ghost story and a crime novel as well. In sofar you might like it. I’m not sure. It’s interesting but I don’t know why she is with Dom. I don’t like that guy.

      • I think she fell for him and moved in with him before she really started discovering that there was more to his story than he was saying. Now she’s at the point that she’s already invested in the house, and she’s trying to convince herself that he’s trustworthy. That being said, I keep finding myself shouting, “No, don’t do it Eve!” I don’t want Dom to be evil, but the more I read the more I think he had something to do with Rachel’s disappearance.

        I still need to read Rebecca. I have a copy of it, but it’s at my parents’ house in Pennsylvania, so I don’t think I’ll be reading it for a while…

        • I cannot remember Rebecca so well anymore, it’s been 10 years since I’ve read it but I think it felt “cooler”.
          I can understand a character who cannot talk about his past right away but he feels passive aggressive. He doesn’t just not talk about Rachel, he just doesn’t talk at all.
          I think she really thought they had a lot in common at first and that made her careless. She trusted him completely.

  2. There are certain plot devices that seem to closely follow Rebecca, but you’re right that the writing and setting are quite different! There are a lot of things going on with the story–between the ghostly apparition and the murdered woman (which seems very low key so far?) and whatever Pierre has gotten up to–it has a suspenseful thread which I do like. I don’t find Dom all that attractive either–he’s a little too mysterious without being all that interesting. I think I’d be more attracted to the house and lifestyle than to him… Still I am curious to see where the story is moving and she makes me want to travel to Provence!

    • Yes, I want to travel to Provence as well despite the descriptions that are a bit overdone, there are some that are wonderful. I like the descriptions of scent best.
      It’s true, there is a lot happening. I’ve already read 250 pages now and still wonder how she will “solve everything”. It’s a genre blend, really, isn’t it? I think that surprsied me the most. I thought it would be less of a ghost story.
      Pierre is a nasty piece of work indeed.
      I agree with your comment about Dom being mysterious but sort of not interesting. Maybe what surpriess me is that in stories like this, in which you can’t really say why one charcater is so attracted there is usually an element of passion but that is completely lacking here. It is almost oldfashioned.

  3. Nice post, Caroline! I loved your comment about the usage of adjectives 🙂 I recently read a passage by Isaac Babel where he says that a noun needs only one adjective and only a genius can afford two adjectives to a noun. “Blue-green icy sea water” – that is a lot of adjectives 🙂

    Glad to know that you are liking this book. Can’t wait to read your second post in this readalong!

    • Thanks, Vishy. I couldn’t agree more with Isaac Babel but to be fair, Deborah Lawrenson writes genre, not literary fiction and what I found overdone, is enjoyed completely by others.
      I think this is one of the novels that you have to finsih before being able to do it justice. What feels like too much, can be quite wonderful, looking back.
      I enjoy reading it, yes, it’s a very fast read.
      I’m very curious to see the outcome now that I have finished part 3.

  4. I think I too had a complete disconnect between the Eve and the Benedicte chapters at first, which may have put me off the alternating narrative more than I normally would have. I’ve already finished the book so I’m coming at it from a different angle than if I hadn’t, but I appreciate you pointing out wanting to find out how the two are connected – I’d forgotten at the beginning that they do seem entirely disparate.

    • Oh yes, I certainly would like to find out. The chnages are very abrupt but at least it’s one point of view per chpater or it would be difficult to sort out. I think the problem is that Bénédicte wasn’t that present in the first chapter. I started the 3 and it’s easier to keep the part and alos more suspenseful.

  5. I hadn’t even noticed the tendings toward heavy over-adjectiving until you pointed them out! I do think that you’re right that sometimes this works right (it’s almost necessary in the scent passages, to exactly pinpoint something as complicated as scent) but at other times doesn’t seem to work at all. This wasn’t necessarily a problem for me, but I can see how it would be for some people! I also couldn’t agree with you more where Dom is concerned – he seems shifty and tricky and I just…don’t like him. There’s something about him. Looking forward to seeing how your thoughts develop next week, although I have to say I’m rather fond of the characters thus far.

    • I’m already reading chapter 4 and like the characters much better. For me Dom is just one of those passive-aggressive types and even if he is like this because he was wounded I think it isn’t acceptable to be like that. Eve chnged her whole life for him, abandoned everything. Scent is very difficult to describe, I think she needs all the adjectives there but in other places, less would have been more.

  6. I like your boudoir analogy. I feel like that even with the descriptions of the hamlet. Some parts are just too detailed of a description for the lighter plot of this book. And yet, I’m really caught up in the story now and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

    • Thanks, Kristen. It really feels like an indoor description all through the book, whether she is outside, in the hamlet or anywhere else. I’m very intersted to see how it will end. I don’t think I can wait another two weeks to finish.

  7. I think this is an interesting book, in that it’s easy to like what it does, and easy to get annoyed by it, too. It’s exactly right that its strengths can become its weaknesses. I do agree with you over Dom – when I think back to how well Maxim de Winter is drawn (all that early part in the hotel on the continent is fantastic for establishing him as a powerful personality) Dom just seems an empty cipher. Eve does too much telling the reader about him, when we need to see him in action.

    • Yes it is interesting and I think that precisely for that reason it will stay in my mind.
      Empy cipher is a very apt expression. I didn’t think that Dom had anything in common with Maxim de Winter. I’m curious to see how close to Rebecca the ending will be.

  8. While I am not feeling the same way as you are about the descriptions and am actually really enjoying them all at this point, I can very easily see how they could be annoying to readers. I went into the book expecting and in some ways hoping for some level of this mostly because of other books I’ve read like that, but I know I would not want every book I read to be written in this manner. For now I am enjoying the almost voyeuristic look into their lives that the deeper descriptions give. It remains to be seen if I’ll feel that way through the other two thirds of the story.

    I like your comparison to the stuffy old boudoir. I think it is apt. I just happen to think a stuffy old boudoir sounds fittingly eerie this time of year.

    I’ll have to start paying more attention but I do believe you are right in that Benedicte’s passages are less descriptive. And frankly they should be just as a way to establish that these narrators are two different people with their own unique voices.

    I’ve mentioned before that I don’t find it at all unreasonable that Eve would be with and remain with Dom at this point. I think we all have had relationships that we entered into with wild romantic bliss where all was wonderful and we were slow to give credence to the person’s faults because we just didn’t want to see them. I also am not quite ready to assume that Dom is simply the way Eve paints him. He may be, and if he is that will be just fine, but I’m reserving some judgement at this point.

    Its been a long time since I’ve read Rebecca so I have no good recollection of the writing “style”, but am certainly getting the same vibe from this I got from Rebecca. I do hope the story veers off on its own course.

    • I did think the same, I thought that while I do not always like these lush descriptions I’m sure many readers will love the book for that. And I’m sure the atmosphere she creates is not one to forget easily.
      I do enjoy reading it anyway and now that I’m progressing even more.
      You are very right about all of us having had relationships that were probabaly not much more sensible than the one Dom and Eve have. I agree. I’ve made some highly questionable choices in my past but the men were always talkative and never distant. I think I have a problem with someone like Dom not with the “wrong” or hasty choice per se.
      Because the style is so different I don’t feel all that much reminded of Rebecca but I can still remember the ending and would alos be disappointed if she didn’t come up with something different.

  9. I wasn’t sure about the writing either. I think that is part of the reason why it took me so long to get into it… The overuse of adjectives was a bit annoying. Sometimes I think I actually skimmed because I just didn’t care. I forgot to mention that it my post. I really need to take notes of things I want to talk about because I usually forget by the time I write my actual post! I look forward to your thoughts on this week.

    • Once you get used to the writing you forget abou the adecjtives but it did really bother me again and again. She seems do have done it deliberately or the two parts of the two women wouldn’t be so different.
      It’s really something you either like or hate.
      It happens to me as well, that I forget something, I fould very important. I’m not really taking notes but I note down a few catchwords.
      I’m curious to see what everybody thinks of part 3 and 4.

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