The 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.