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.
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!