Rated Reads

The Lantern

by Deborah Lawrenson

Rated: Mild

A young woman meets a wealthy, older man and, after a whirlwind romance, ends up moving with him into a large old home in Provence called Les Genévriers. Life couldn’t be more idyllic — the house itself is charming, full of history and little treasures that keep popping up; the gardens and land around it are lovely and restful; Dom and “Eve” (that’s his nickname for her) are head-over-heels in love — until small problems start unsettling her. Dom, mostly politely but still quite firmly, refuses to discuss even the smallest details about his former wife, Rachel, and as time passes, he retreats into himself, isolating them both from friends, family and neighbors.

Meanwhile, Eve makes a friend in the village who introduces her to some interesting history of the house and hamlet — and can provide her with some information about the mysterious Rachel. She learns a little about the previous inhabitants of Les Genévriers, even as readers get a first-person viewpoint from one of them, Bénédicte, interspersed throughout the book with Eve’s story. Bénédicte’s sister left the farm to eventually become a well-known perfume creator; their brother, Pierre, was a troublemaker who also left to seek his fortune, leaving Bénédicte to struggle to keep up their family’s crumbling-down home and eke together a livelihood.

As time goes on, Eve finds herself disturbed not only by new developments in the stories she hears from her friend and in unexpected events in their lives but also by little unexplainable occurrences inside the house and out on the grounds. Could the house possibly be haunted? Why is she seeing an old lit lantern out on the walking paths at night?

The Lantern is a story that draws in the reader, raising questions about characters’ secrets, all in a setting perfect for a gothic tale. It even makes allusions to one of the best gothic stories ever, Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca. This novel isn’t perfect, but it satisfies quite well for a good gothic fix.

Rated: Mild, for some mild and moderate language, a couple of scenes of brief violence and references to sexual behavior but no details.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Lantern
  • by Deborah Lawrenson
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: