31 October 2011

Review: The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

Although not a retelling of either Jane Eyre or Rebecca, Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern is reminiscent of the two classics. Lawrenson's novel is set in Les Genévriers, the manor house of the Lincel lands in Provence, and asks, What do we really know about the people we love?

The Lantern has two narrators: Bénédicte, who was born and will die in the house, and Eve whose lover, Dom, later bought the property. Bénédicte's story reveals secrets of Les Genévriers that begin during the Nazi occupation. In Eve's tale, Les Genévriers is the catalyst for a twenty-first-century mystery.

The novel has all the elements of a good Gothic tale: love, loss, and betrayal; misunderstandings and meddling neighbors; and hauntings. Although you'll figure out some of the mysteries fairly early on, there are still surprises near the end. Despite a number of beautiful passages--especially descriptions of the food and countryside--the novel ultimately is unremarkable. The biggest problem is in the characters. Bénédicte and Eve have distinct personalities, but they often seem one-dimensional and easily manipulated. In addition, all the men tend to be duplicitous and are either weak, mean, or cold.

Regardless of The Lantern's flaws, Lawrenson is a master at creating a mood and a setting, and thus I'm curious about her backlist. Note too, that I'm likely in the minority; the novel was an Indie Next pick for September 2011 and seems to be a favorite among my fellow bloggers.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition of The Lantern (Harper Audio, 10 hr, 36 min), read by Gerrianne Raphael, as Bénédicte and Kristine Ryan as Eve. Their accents and vocalizations fit the characters and the novel perfectly. My full audio review will be available on the AudioFile website and/or in the magazine.

The Lantern at Powell's
The Lantern at Book Depository
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Published by HarperCollins / Harper, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062049698
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
Rating: C+

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


bookmagic 10/31/11, 7:42 AM  

I kept trying but I could not get into this novel. I didn't see what all the fuss was about. Though she writes beautifully, the plot could not engage me enough

Julie P. 10/31/11, 8:00 AM  

I've looked at this one a few times and it just doesn't seem to appeal to me. I could be surprised though.

Jenn's Bookshelves 10/31/11, 9:41 AM  

So sorry you didn't enjoy this as much as I did. You aren't alone, this is clearly one of those love/hate sort of books. Perhaps I enjoyed it because I read it as opposed to listening to it. It's possible..

Carrie K. 10/31/11, 9:45 AM  

I was initially very excited to read this one, but the mixed reviews have me putting it on the back burner.

Sandy Nawrot 10/31/11, 10:12 AM  

I immediately ordered this from the library on audio, then started seeing some pretty ugly reviews. Raych really ripped into it (she did her thesis on Rebecca after all) and really kind of turned me off. I don't want to read a Jane Eyre/Rebecca wannabe.

Daryl 10/31/11, 10:26 AM  

I trust your taste in books .. so I think I will skip this one .. thanks!

Anonymous,  10/31/11, 10:48 AM  

I'm really looking forward to this; Songs of Blue and Gold - loosely based on Lawrence Durrell was a wonderful read. I really reccomend it.

Dorte H 10/31/11, 10:49 AM  

Phew, I was so afraid I couldn´t visit your place without having to buy something ;)

But despite the Gothic elements, under-developed characters do not tempt me.

Anonymous,  10/31/11, 11:33 AM  

This one did have it's flaws but for me, they were minor and didn't detract from the beauty of the story.

Unknown 10/31/11, 12:16 PM  

This one I can pass on, your honesty is appreciated, really respect that in a review.

Zibilee 10/31/11, 1:01 PM  

I think I liked this one a lot more than you did, but tended to agree that some of the characters were a little weak willed and easily led. I also sort of hated a few of them, and got frustrated with Eve at times. Overall, the book had great atmosphere, but I can see where some wouldn't like it. I appreciated your candid thoughts on this one. It gave me an insight into a different perspective.

bermudaonion 10/31/11, 1:26 PM  

The fact that you want to see the author's backlist leads me to believe the writing must be good even if the story's unremarkable.

Beth F 10/31/11, 1:32 PM  

Bermudaonion (Kathy): exactly!

Andi 10/31/11, 2:13 PM  

I think I liked it a good bit more than you did, though I would agree that the ladies (and men) were one-dimensional. Benedicte ended up being my favorite as I thought her story line was more interesting overall than Eve's.

Barbara 10/31/11, 2:26 PM  

I loved this book because of the beautiful writing and the setting. I felt as though I was right there on the estate and in the house. Having said this, I did get annoyed with Eve a lot because she let Dom dominate her. Benedicte's story was definitely more interesting.

Margot 10/31/11, 2:46 PM  

Thanks for your honest and complete evaluation. I've only seen glowing reviews so far and I knew there had to be more to it.

natalie @ book, line, and sinker 10/31/11, 10:25 PM  

sorry you didn't enjoy this one more. i tend to shy away from reviewing audiobooks because i seem to like them MORE when i listen to them. mediocre books just seem better to me when a good narrator reads them. conversely, if i don't like a narrator's voice, i tend to enjoy the book less. for this reason, i've shied away from reviewing audio.

Serena 11/1/11, 8:46 AM  

I like reading Gothic tales around Halloween. This sounds like a perfect fit.

Nari @ The Novel World 11/1/11, 3:23 PM  

I wasn't a fan of this book either. I didn't care for the characters and found the plot to be easily predictable and not very creepy at all.

Michelle (my books. my life.) 11/1/11, 3:28 PM  

This one is so hit or miss for people. My only real problem with it was that it was slow. I would have given up in print but the audio was lovely enough to keep me going.

Marg 11/1/11, 9:59 PM  

I loved the descriptiveness of this book - the sights, tastes and scents were so prevalent through the pages, but there were definitely flaws!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 11/4/11, 4:12 PM  

I have THE LANTERN in my reading queue, but I hope to re-read REBECCA before diving into it. Well, with your tepid review I may be wading instead of diving :)

I am, however, curious enough to research some reviews on her backlist.

BookGeek 11/6/11, 5:09 PM  

I've been wanting to read this one for a bit and will still likely do so. Thanks for such an honest review. I am a sucker for gothic romances and descriptions, haha. ;)

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 11/6/11, 7:44 PM  

I liked it, probably more than you did, but I didn't find it riveting. I thought Bénédicte’s story was the stronger of the two tales. Partly because gothics are better when they take place in the past and partly because Eve seemed a bit, oh, naive for a modern day woman.

Unknown 11/8/11, 8:17 PM  

Oh...this sounds really good. I'm glad to see the audio version is good too as I'll be needing to find some audio books soon.

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