“The Lantern” Readalong, Part 1

Happy Columbus Day! (Although it must be said that I think that Columbus was a horrible human being and should not be looked upon as a role model, based on his own writing about his conduct upon discovering the new world…)

As a part of the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge (hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings), I’m participating in a readalong of Deborah Lawrenson’s “The Lantern,” a gothic novel set in an old house in Provence.

The book is broken down into five sections.  This week’s discussion questions were written by Carl, and cover the first two sections of the novel.  Next week’s discussion will focus on sections three and four, and then the week after we’ll wrap up the readalong with section five.

From this point on, there may be spoilers from the first two sections of the book.  Be warned!

1.  This may seem like an obvious opening question, but what do you think of The Lantern thus far?

So far, I’m a fan.  I had no preconceived notions of the book, as I hadn’t heard of it before the groupread.  Lawrenson’s writing is beautiful, and she’s able to evoke an aura of suspense and mystery.  I find myself wanting to know more about each of the characters, and I’m extremely curious about Rachel.

2.  The book appears to be following the experiences of two different women, alternating back and forth between their stories.  Are you more fond of our main protagonist’s story or of Benedicte’s or are you enjoying them both equally?

At first, I enjoyed Eve’s story far more than Benedicte’s, but I think Benedicte’s story just had a slow start.  I’m rather curious as to what happened to Pierre.  Obviously he’s dead, and he was a little shit when he was alive, but why is he haunting Benedicte now?  What secrets are buried in the past?

3.  The Lantern is a book filled with descriptions of scents.  How are you liking (or disliking) that aspect of the book?  How do you feel about the lavish description of scents? How are the short chapters working for you?

Scents are rather integral to the story, and often hint at supernatural or ominous presences.  I think that they go far in helping to create the atmosphere of the story.  I like the short chapters; I do much of my reading while commuting or on lunch break, so I like having convenient stopping points throughout the story.  It’s better than having to stop mid-page.

4.  How would you describe the atmosphere of Parts 1 and 2 of The Lantern?

Hmm… quaint European storybook village meets “Under the Tuscan Sun,” except that it’s all haunted.  It’s creepier because everything is so pretty and full of light, but with such dark undertones.  Add to that an understood literary backdrop, and you have “The Lantern.”

5.  Has anything surprised you to this point?  Anything stand out?

I want to know more about Rachel, and why Dom freaks out every time her name is mentioned.  I suspect that he might have had something to do with her disappearance.  I also want to know what’s up with the swimming pool–it’s hinted that they find something underneath, but what?  I like the way that Lawrenson manages to tie together Eve and Benedicte’s lives through a book of stories.  It’s so poetic.

6.  What are your feelings about Dom in these first two sections of the story?

There’s a poem in Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things” called Instructions that seems to fit very well here.  I think that Eve needs to watch her step.  The handsome stranger with a mysterious past generally keeps his past hidden for a reason.  If he seems to good to be true, don’t trust him!

On one hand, I find myself liking Dom and thinking that he’d be nice to spend time with.  On the other hand, every time he starts acting like a creep when Rachel is mentioned, I start to wonder why Eve puts up with him.  The only reason I have to mistrust him aside from that is Eve’s revelation earlier in the book that Dom did something terrible.  I find myself hoping that it wasn’t murder.

Concluding Thoughts

Thus far, I’m loving the book.  I had to tear myself away from it to keep from reading ahead, because I need to know what happens next.  Lawrenson’s writing is beautiful, and I enjoy that she seems to be well-read.  I can’t wait to hear everyone else’s thoughts on the novel!

Comments make me happy! Please feel free to leave a reply.

17 comments

  1. Oh, this does sound like a great book, especially because I’m really digging creepy stuff lately – I tell myself it has nothing to do with October and everything to do with one of my current WIPs. Here comes another book added to the neverending list!

    1. I’ve been reading more creepy things for the RIP challenge, and am hooked. I’m thinking I’ll have to continue this trend into the rest of the year… 😛

  2. I’m totally thinking dead body under the swimming pool. Pierre’s? Marthe’s? Dozens of dead cats? I am also hoping that Dom’s bad business is only kind of bad and not really super bad!

  3. Our reactions couldn’t be more different. Interesting. I cannot stnad Dom and see no reason why Eve stays with him at all.
    The descriptions are special but don’t work for me. There is just too much of everything. I’ve been to the South of France every year during my childhood. It’s far wilder and less sweetly lush.
    I’m more interested in Bénédicte and think Marthe’s story is fascinating.

    1. I want to learn more about Marthe as well. She’s such an interesting character.

      Overall, I don’t mind any of the characters thus far except Pierre, despite the fact that I think that Eve made a mistake moving in with Dom, and the fact that he’s a bit creepy. I like that she keeps mentioning his redeeming points, so that it’s more of a nagging feeling of suspicion that Eve feels toward him than total distrust.

  4. I’m with you on hoping Dom didn’t commit murder. It is one of those things that would be too obvious this early in the story and I am hoping for better than that from Lawrenson.

    I’m not seeing Dom as all bad. I think he is being less than forthright and a bit shady, but I also am trying to see things from his point of view in that he is as new to this relationship with Eve as she is to him and he is obviously having some trust issues. Maybe part of his reluctance is not wanting to risk the damage it might do to this chance of happiness he has found.

    Funny that you mention Under the Tuscan Sun because even though that story is set in Italy and not France it is images from that book and from the movie that have been coursing through my head as I read this. I like the lush descriptions personally, I think they make the book come alive.

    As for Columbus, if we only honored those without flaws we wouldn’t celebrate anyone, LOL! I think that, at the very least, we have to acknowledge the daring of him and his crew to brave the sea voyage in the same way we honor all explorers.

    1. I love the way that the setting is so important to the book, and the descriptions of the relaxed beauty of the European countryside were quite nice. I think the contrast between the setting and the darker events that are unveiling themselves makes the suspense even greater.

  5. This book is almost the perfect kind of cold creepy that the R.I.P. challenge calls for! I’m loving it, and actually find that I’m getting more and more drawn in to the Benedicte side of the story, especially considering just how f’ed-up her family is (dad cementing her in to a while, an animal torturing brother…) and I just don’t see how that can end well!

    I also don’t quite know what to make of Dom yet, especially with the allusions to something nasty having to do with the swimming pool, and the fact that that student hiker girl has gone missing or turned up murdered or something (that part is still a little fuzzy…). I mean, when we first meet him, he seems absolutely wonderful, but now…I mean, I guess that’s kind of the point. But still – I don’t know how Eve can stand him! I just want to shake her and yell “get your answers or get out!”

    Can’t wait to hear what you have to say next week!

    1. Benedicte’s story is interesting, and I’m curious as to what will happen with her story. I wonder if she’s scarred for life after such a childhood.

      As for the swimming pool, it’s good to remember that it’s old… so I think that anything that happens with it is more likely to be connected to Benedicte’s story than Dom’s.

  6. I like the quick chapters too but then again it’s also really easy to say “oh, I’ll just read one more chapter — it’s only 3 pages!” and then all of a sudden you are at the end of part 4. 😉

    And I keep reading the word “creepy” about Dom but I think of him more as moody and sad than menacing or mean. I hope Eve turns out to be an exaggerator and that Dom’s “bad thing” isn’t so bad in the scheme of things.

    1. I’ve been doing that too… I’m midway through part 4 already! I didn’t bring it with me on the bus today because I knew I’d be tempted to finish the book if I did.

      With Dom, there’s a weird vibe. He could just be moody, but when you add his reactions on top of all of the other strange events, it’s awfully suspicious. At the same time, I don’t want him to be bad, and I want her to be able to trust him.

  7. “I want to know more about Rachel, and why Dom freaks out every time her name is mentioned. I suspect that he might have had something to do with her disappearance. ”

    Me too! I don’t trust him at all.