I wanted to read this book the moment I heard about it. It was supposedly a take on Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and I fully adored that book. Love, love, loved it. I waited though but read every review of it I could, spoilers and all. When I finally gave it, I read it in almost one sitting. I couldn’t put it down.
Eve, a translator working in Switzerland, falls for a man named Dom. Their whirlwind relationship lands them in Provence at a small abandoned house called St. Genévriers in the south of France. They’re in love with each other and with the little house they bought. Dom, having sold a successful business, has money and it makes for a quiet, easy life. They get lost in restoring the now run-down little hamlet to its former glory. What they didn’t count on was a devastating secret coming back to haunt them.
This book moves between the past and the present but never falters in atmosphere. The setting, strewn with lavender fields and dark secrets, is wonderfully evocative. Lawrenson drops you in those fields, describing each and every petal almost. I worried in the beginning that I would tire of her descriptions but I didn’t. Every setting comes with a tactile feeling — gritty, dust falling from a ceiling, a rough wall, the soft petals of a flower. I fell in love with it and I have a thing for French settings which I know made this an easy sell for me.
The relationship between Eve and Dom isn’t so open and easy though. Dom has a secret he refuses to share for all of Eve’s prodding. It casts a pall on their happy life which Dom seems fine with. Eve begins to harp on it and can’t let go. When everything is finally revealed, the secret, while devastating, doesn’t destroy them even if the life they thought they had has now disappeared.
An enchanting, gothic tale it is but it’s not Rebecca. I don’t think anything will live up to that book for me, and in a way, I think it’s unfair to position this book as a re-telling of that story. While a few elements will remind you of du Maurier, this isn’t the same story. When I started this book, I did remind myself on almost every page not to compare it to Rebecca and that didn’t happen past the first few chapters. The comparisons didn’t change my opinion of this book either. It was good. It stood on its own. Comparisons be damned.
The Lantern is a story of people looking to be loved and finding happiness and fulfillment in lives full of sadness. It moves at a slow pace but feels as though it has an ending and will come to some sort of resolution, happy or not. Everything is solved and the explanations are not always simple ones, but they have meaning and purpose for the characters which I can appreciate even if I felt some things were left too easily.
This was my first book of 2012 and I have to say it started my year off pretty well.
By Deborah Lawrenson