Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern – Group Read Week III (Part 5)

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson ebook

This is the last week of Carl’s R.I.P. VI group read of Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern. This week’s questions have been provided by Heather. Here is the link to the other posts.

Looking back on the novel, I would say this was a very mixed bag for me. I was really curious to read the end for many reasons. I wanted to know how it all tied up and I also thought that I could only say whether I really liked the book once I finished it.

Those who have not read the book at all, shouldn’t read the answers. They contain spoilers.

1. Now that it’s all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?

It was a mixed bag. I liked some parts a lot but after having finished I must say, I didn’t like the end at all. The story of the bones was too predictable, the missing girls a bit of a plump red herring and Rachel’s end was far from realistic.

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 still think Dom was an insufferable character and what he says about Rachel’s death doesn’t even have to be true. Rachel was a troubled mind but we never really know why she became the way she is.

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’m pretty sure, he killed them. It goes well will all the other cruelties he committed.

4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier’s writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description?

I didn’t see Rebecca in it at all. It’s decidedly not in the same league.

5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?

I had a huge problem with the police procedurals and the cancer story. They just didn’t sound realistic. This book overflows with descriptions and details but all we get is the word “cancer”. That’s too easy. To feel at least a little bit realistic, we should have heard what type of cancer. Colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, leukemia, glioblastoma… What did she have? I think you get the drift. If you can’t call a tree a tree but tell your readers it’s a fig, it’s a pine, it’s a …. then you should be a bit more explicit than that when it comes to an illness like cancer, especially when the person dies of it. This was not believable for me and spoilt the ending of the book.

6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?

The best part is Bénédicte’s story. I like that ending very well but, as said before the solution to the “serial killer” and Rachel’s end felt wrong, like a cheap trick.

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?

I think Bénédicte and Eve are probably the only truthful ones. Dom’s story could be true or not.

33 thoughts on “Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern – Group Read Week III (Part 5)

  1. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the ending but am glad there were parts of the story that you enjoyed.

    And of course I’m super happy that you participated.

    I’m not sure that I’ve always agreed over the last three weeks with your thoughts on the characters being ‘realistic’ or not, partially because I think this kind of gothic fiction is built on characters that are meant to be over dramatic and meant to fit into a certain “type” and partially because I haven’t seen things as being quite as unrealistic as you did.

    Which is part of the fun of group reads, when people have different opinions. I do think all your reasoning for why you feel the way you do is sound and I don’t disagree with your reasoning, I just see things from a different angle.

    I didn’t find Dom to be as bad in the end and while he sometimes annoyed me because I wanted him to “man up”, to use a modern phrase, he was meant to fit that Mr. DeWinter mold of being a secretive, brooding and elusive character until the final reveal and I think Lawrenson did a fair job of presenting him that way. Rachel is meant to be Rebecca on some level and so I don’t find it odd that she would be the kind of narcissistic character who would be freewheeling with her love life and spiteful and nasty to her husband. I also don’t find it odd that someone like that would not want to suffer a long debilitating death from cancer but would also use the situation to get a last jab in.

    And yet part of the fun of Lawrenson not being too detailed is that there is still that possibility that Dom wasn’t being completely honest in the end and that in some future Eve might find herself a victim. Although I don’t choose to see the ending that way (I’m more of a glass half full person), I find it delicious that there is that unspoken possibility.

    And I did like that Benedicte was still around haunting the place. Despite her faults I liked the ol’ gal and am glad her ghost is still around the house.

    • I absolutely don’t regret having read the book. I would have preferred it if Dom had been a real baddy, that’s all. I did expect the ending to be like that but I was wishing for an outher outcome.
      The other endings, especially involving Bénédicte were to my liking.
      Well, yes, realistic, that is my point of view, of course, I just didn’t think it all that believable. Why would he become more and more brooding, wouldn’t it have been more logical to be brooding right from the start. Can you really “forget” for a while that you killed someone… Since we don’t know what cancer she had, we don’t know whether she had really no chance to survive.
      I don’t know why I cannot imagine that Dom let a woman mistreat him like Rachel seems to have done.
      I don’t buy his “victim status” at all.

      • See, I found it interesting that Rachel was one of the mean girl types who manipulated Dom. Normally in literature you see a manipulative guy and a very innocent girl, but here Lawrenson does the reverse, which is more realistic and balanced. It’s not always the guys who are the cheaters.

        • I agree with you there, that’s for sure but he didn’t strike me as a victim, not the way he handled the relationship with Eve and how he treated her.
          Maybe it was like a reverse of power.

      • It wasn’t very clear like it could have been, but Eve did mention in this last section that she was ignoring his mood and some of the warning signs even early on in the relationship, so I think Dom probably was brooding all along but things got worse when he went ahead and moved with Eve. So I don’t find it to be not believable because part of what we read into Eve’s character is that she isn’t the most reliable narrator. She keeps purposefully ignoring or minimizing the bad stuff because of her desire to hold on to the good stuff. Again, I see her as such a believable (but maddening) character because so many people act just like that in real life.

        And perhaps I’m giving Lawrenson more benefit of the doubt than her writing deserves, but I always bought Dom’s victim status because of the fact that I had du Maurier’s novel in my head. Since the novel was based on Rebecca I never expected Dom to be truly bad and frankly would have been disappointed if Eve turned out to be another unwitting female who found herself in the clutches of some nefarious male character. She certainly deserved to since she ignored all the warning signs, but I’m glad that didn’t happen.

        • I think I get you. I didn’t see those early signs but they were probably there. And yes, it’s not unrealistic that she clings to something she wants no matter what.
          My memory of Rebecca is really blurred and that may be a reason why I read it differently. But from what I remember Rebecca was another calibre (the characater, not the novel), far worse than Rachel.
          I wonder if I had ike it better without that serial killer red herring thing…
          There was simply one thing too much in all of it.
          I actually thought this was a typical 1st novel and the I realized that it is not…

          • You are right and that is where I am coming to the realization of and am willing to admit that I am giving Lawrenson a pass that I might not give another author who had written an original story. I couldn’t help but read more depth, or what have you, into this story than was always there because I had Rebecca so firmly in mind. Doesn’t take away from the fact that I still really enjoyed this, but I have to admit that I was reading it through Rebecca-colored glasses the whole time. Lawrenson could have fleshed these things out a bit more without adding tremendously to the overall page count.

          • I actually had the same thought about 1st novel issues before looking her up and finding out that it wasn’t her 1st. I don’t know what to think about that. I didn’t find the writing bad but I thought the plotting could have used some work, so I just don’t know if I’m going to be keen to read more from this author. Library, maybe; purchase, no. Not until I know what she can do with a story that’s entirely her own.

            • There are so many authors out there… I’m not likely to read her again very soon.
              I think what made me assume it’s a first was the fact of packing too many details into it. Less would have been more.

  2. Pingback: The Lantern (group read, week 3) | Susan Hated Literature

  3. Interesting points you make. And I think that in a lot of them you are spot on, even if I didn’t totally see them while reading the book. But thinking about them afterwards there are a certain amount of papering over plot developments.

    I still enjoyed it though 🙂

    Not a great book, but a good one, and nice and atmospheric I thought.
    As for Dom, a total muppet if you ask me, but I think that for a large part of their relationship Eve enabled his moodiness. Understandable perhaps in a short term fling, but once you move in with someone you deserve the truth.

    • An absolute muppet. 🙂 Yes, i also thought so, fling-material, perhaps, but not moving in- material but I guess that’s us thinking, and, as carl pointed out, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not realistic because there really are plenty of women who accept that type of behaviour.
      The interesting fact is, that I didn’t mind reading it. I just think, it could have been a far better novel.

  4. Interesting answers. Although I said I didn’t want to read part 5 of this readalong…but I am curious with how bad it ends.

    Judging from all your answers…an easy to guess ending is so not interesting. It also seems that the book gives too much description. I remember feeling bored reading perfume as it also has so many unnecesary description.

    • See, that’s what I thought and despite the fact that it’s only my opinion, I know your taste well enough by now, to be certain when something would totaly not appeal to you. This book almost beats Perfume description-wise. I did love Perfume, btw… That’s also in another league.

  5. Although I enjoyed reading the story, I thought it was a little uneven, too. I preferred Benedicte’s story over Eve’s, though I thought it interesting that she (B.) had a happy ending in that Andre was perhaps waiting for her ‘on the other side’ so to speak. She didn’t forgive his deceit in real life, so I’m a little surprised her love continued? I wonder if I would have been much more sold on the story had I read it on my own straight through rather than thinking about the various elements and seeing the imperfections? Or maybe it wouldn’t have mattered?

    • Good question… I think it wasn’t a book for slowing down and, it may very well be that if I had read it in one-two sittings that I would have been more forgiving of the inconsistencies.

  6. Much as I didn’t like the character of Dom (and felt that he really could have been drawn with more detail and purpose), I think it’s perfectly realistic for people with a trauma or bad experience in their lives to make snap decisions and plump for some sort of imagined recompense, throwing their all into a new relationship, only to have the unresolved doubts, grief and anxiety gradually re-emerge. I think it might be interesting to break down what you mean by unrealistic here. What I’m getting from your post is that a lack of detail on the human side, coupled with too much situational detail gave the novel an unbalanced feel to it, so that it focused on the material world at the expense of a more profound sense of spirituality (and by this I suppose I mean how people’s inner lives changed or were affected). Is that how you felt? I’m really intrigued to know whether your sense of what’s realistic comes from the way people behave in books, or the kind of narrative you’re presented with.

    • I thought it was unbalanced and, as you phrased it perfectly well, too much situational detail and not enough on the human side.people often jump into a new relationshpi because they want to forget something, I agree there as well. But I have a lot of experience with traumatized people and for some reason I didn’t buy Dom’s trauma. I was told he is traumatized, I didn’t see it. Usually it plays out in a different way, there would have been some acting out. I never felt he was traumatized just someone in a foul mood.

  7. Yes, the missing girls was a bit strange. I was a bit uneasy when it was revealed at the end that the missing girls really served no purpose. There was so much attention and suspicion surrounding them and it was all for nothing…

    • I felt cheated and manipulated…and think this is one of those story lines that could have been left out. I even think i would have liked the book far better without it.

  8. To be honest, I kind of never thought of the ‘red herring’ of the serial killer and his victims. That plot line was more of a buzzing gnat than anything that led me to believe it might be Dom.

    I love the conversation that’s popped up here about ‘realistic’ and what it means to have ‘realistic’ characters who do ‘realistic’ things. When it comes to this novel, I think that part of the reasons I was so disappointed with Benedicte’s ending was that it was ‘realistic’. I mean, it’s far more understandable for her to have a medical condition than for her to be seeing ghostys of her dead family. But I hated that ending – I WANTED THE GHOSTYS! Whereas, for Eve, the ‘realistic’ thing for her to do (in my opinion) would have been for her to leave, and she never did. So I don’t know. Maybe I just feel like some parts of the book were too quickly explained, provided with too convenient an ‘out’, and it left me very, very frustrated.

    I almost wish that I had gotten to read Benedicte’s story just on it’s own. That’s who I wanted to know about – Eve annoyed me and Dom was all tortured and priggish and, until the end, not all that complex of a character (beyond ‘he did something BAD but won’t talk about this BAD thing he did). However, I wanted to know more about Pierre, about Benedicte’s father and mother, and about this historical disintegration of the town they lived in. That would have been a far better, and I think slightly more original (although the Rebecca ties didn’t both me like they seem to have bothered others) story.

    I loved this read-a-long (my first!) first and foremost because it’s allowed me to see how so many different people read and reacted to a book that has turned out to illicit more diverse opinions than I originally thought it would!

    • “I loved this read-a-long (my first!) first and foremost because it’s allowed me to see how so many different people read and reacted to a book that has turned out to illicit more diverse opinions than I originally thought it would!”

      I have been surprised by it too, Chelsea. I was really concerned initially that the book would not generate the same level of conversation that some of the other novels chosen for group reads lately had. And to my delight it has generated more than most. It is has been very surprising to have my expectations flipped in this way.

      • Chelsea – I do soooo agree with you. I liked the ending of Bénédicte’s story but I also wanted a ghost. Still I wasn’t disappointed by that ending. I found it a bit uncanny anyway to think that someone can hide so well.
        And i was alos thinking it might have been a far more interesting story, if Lawrenson had concentrated on her story only. Giving us more background. Why was the father so strict, how did Pierre get so f**** up.
        And yes, Eve…. It wasn’t realistic from my perspective to stay with a guy like that but Carl is right, many women would probabaly react like that.
        I’m glad that your first readalong was a success, although the book wasn’t all that great for you either.

        Carl – I thought the very same thing at the beginning of this novel. I was convinced there wouldn’t be much of a conversation. I thought that we would all just love it and nod our heads in unison all the time… I certainly didn’t think that this would be such a controversial read. 🙂
        Thank you very much for hosting this!!!

        • Isn’t it funny how that worked? The “nodding heads” analogy is a good one because that is exactly how I thought it would all go down. So glad to be so very wrong about that.

          And were you all not happy that Benedicte turned out to be a ghost and was the person haunting Eve all along?

  9. I didn’t care for the story of Rachel’s “cancer,” either. A part of me felt that Eve had so much insight into everything, but she never provides the evidence that this part of Dom’s story is true. Perhaps that was the intent, to make us continue to distrust Dom, but it still felt a bit too trite. Overall, I did enjoy the story, even though I was a bit upset with so many of the Rebecca statements within the story, and particularly one important piece of a short story that Daphne du Maurier wrote.

    • I’m not sure which short story you refer to but in any case, yes, I thought the cancer bit was trite and the red herrings did annoy me. Maybe that was wanted and we should stay in doubt. I just hope that reading The Lantern will not spoil Rebecca for those who have not read it yet.

  10. I think the thing that bugged me the MOST out of the whole Dom/Eve/Rachel thing is that we don’t get to really see just how bad Rachel is. I mean, yeah, it was a catty move of her to ‘change her mind’ right at the end of the euthanasia, but I wanted…more. More motivation. I guess that’s one of the inherent problems with having the whole dead-wife motif working from the beginning!

    • I felt like that as well. I know others said hat she was really a manipulative bitch but I didn’t really think so. Or, like with Dom, I was told so but I didn’t see and experience it first hand. That’s what I called unrealistic. I think the whole novel is extremely week on psychology.

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