Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

The LanternThe Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

Eve and Dom are at the beginning of a whirlwind romance when they decide to move in to a crumbling old villa in Provence. The summer is idyllic, and they indulge in any pursuit that catches their fancy. Only one topic is taboo: Dom’s first wife, Rachel. Initially, Eve promises not to ask questions about her, for Dom’s sake and because she’s so swept up in the relationship that she fears losing him, but, slowly but surely, the questions begin to gnaw at her: What was Rachel like? Where is she? Does Dom still love her? This is all compounded by the presence of Sabine, a neighbor who knew Rachel well. When Eve begins to ask questions, Dom begins to distance himself, and Eve starts to wonder if she’s comfortable knowing so little about the man she’s with. And then, the house starts acting up with inexplicable power outages, lit lanterns mysteriously appearing in the garden, and things that go bump in the night.

In the past, the villa belonged to the Lincel family, and Bénédicte, the youngest daughter, picks up the narrative and reveals the farm’s tumultuous and, some would say, cursed history. As the story of the Lincels intertwines with Eve’s, the mysteries of the small hamlet begin to emerge. But will they tell Eve something about Dom that she’d be better off not knowing?

I struggled with The Lantern. Now that I’ve finished it and can see the total package, I completely understand what Lawrenson was going for. This is, indeed, a modern Rebecca, replete with descriptions in extremely gorgeous prose and plenty of psychological drama. However, I don’t remember having to work nearly as hard to make it through Rebecca; there was just enough space devoted to creating atmosphere and establishing the odd moods of the characters, and nothing felt superfluous to me. With The Lantern, I had to wade my way through 200 pages of wild gardens, crumbling houses, and sulky Dom before the real mystery emerged. Was it all very interesting in the end? Yes. Am I glad I pushed through? Yes. Am I turning into one of those horrible people who insists on instant gratification? I hope not! Like I said, Lawrenson has a way with words, and I appreciated it, but I suppose I felt like I needed a little more of the mystery a little earlier in the narrative.

I’ve heard from other readers that this book is extremely well done in audio. I think that might be the best way to experience this book.

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Happy birthday, Roald Dahl!

Roald Dahl is one of the reasons why I became a reader. Matilda and The Witches were childhood staples, and I loved them so much that the covers were in tatters and the pages were falling out. When I first read them, the appeal was that these children were my age and going on these outrageous adventures. It’s only now that I see that these cleverly written and illustrated tales were part old-fashioned morality tale, part brilliant social commentary, and I adore them all the more.

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Happy birthday to the man who made me believe.

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The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss

The Twelfth EnchantmentThe Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss

David Liss and I don’t exactly have the best track record: I’ve tried to read The Devil’s Company twice, and both times I had to concede defeat. There was something about the pace and the constant digressions in the narrative that prevented me from getting completely involved in the story. Needless to say, I was a little wary when I picked up The Twelfth Enchantment, but it sounded like a very different book, and several authors and bloggers I respect enjoyed it, so while the East Coast was bunking down for Hurricane Irene, I cracked the cover and started reading.

By the time the hurricane passed, I finished the book.

The Twelfth Enchantment is the story of Lucy Derrick, a destitute orphan who is living as an unwanted guest in her uncle’s house. Her life changes when a stranger arrives and warns her against marrying the local mill owner. This stranger transpires to be the notorious Lord Byron, and he appears to be striken by a curse that Lucy is able to lift. As Lucy begins to fully comprehend her abilities, she find herself pursued by two factions who want to harness her power to change the fate of England forever.

I think what I liked most about this book is that it’s so different from The Devil’s Company. Liss just let the story unfold, and I could not stop reading. I loved the juxtaposition of historical fiction and fantasy, and I especially loved that the magical elements weren’t too esoteric, which can happen very easily when you’re dealing with alchemy. The reactions of various members of society to the Industrial Revolution added a lot of color and context to the story, and the idea of magic and secret orders influencing the industrial development in England was handled in such a way that it didn’t seem too unbelievable.

I was afraid that Lucy was going to be a whiny heroine, but she became stronger as she came into her power, and I ended up warming to her and thoroughly rooting for her. In fact, most of the characters in the book are not at all what they seem, but I can’t say too much without getting spoilery. Let’s just say that each chapter will keep you guessing and leave it at that.

I could not get enough of The Twelfth Enchantment and was kind of sad when I came to the end. I can’t wait to give the other David Liss books another chance!

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