Monday, October 24, 2011

The Lantern Group Read: Part 5 & Wrap-up

It's the end of our group read of The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. I actually finished reading it over a week ago so I'm glad to finally be wrapping this up. Heather of Capricious Reader wrote up our questions for this week.

(End of book questions mean, obviously, SPOILERS. Don't read if this is a book you're interested in. Just read the book!)

1. Now that it's all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?

The story line with Dom and Eve pretty much wrapped up the way I thought it would. It was kind of anti-climactic. Although I was surprised that they had a kid and stayed in the house. I actually liked that bit. The Benedicte story line was more interesting with the medical condition and her having lived with Sabine's family. I liked too that they eventually found the recordings of Benedicte's story and found out the truth about everything.

2. What do you think of the characters? Lawrenson took us on a twisty little ride there, I had trouble deciding who was good and who wasn't for a while there! What do you think of Dom? Of Sabine? Rachel?

I think the only one who turned out to be better than I thought was Sabine. She had a reason behind what she was doing though I'm not quite sure why she was so sneaky and mean about it. Maybe she was just French. I saw everything coming with Rachel and Dom because of the parallels to Rebecca.

3. Pierre was such a conflicted character. In the end, do you think he killed Marthe and Annette, or did the fall to their deaths because of their blindness?

Well, they both ended up with trauma to the back of the skull. I don't think they both happened to do that falling. Plus, he lied about Marthe going back to Paris and eventually faked his own death and disappeared. If he wasn't guilty about something, he would definitely have still tried to get his portion of the estate. He was just a bad man.

4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier's writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description?

I think the connections to Rebecca were obvious but I think that the book suffered a bit from that. The writing was not of the same level as du Maurier's and the story wasn't quite as tight and compelling as Rebecca. I just think it's really hard to emulate a true classic. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I wasn't such a big fan of Rebecca already.

5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?

Any problems I had at the beginning seemed to work themselves out by the end.

6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?

I think the stories never really tied together. Rather, they both happened around the same house and so it's the house's history but I don't think the Benedicte/Marthe/Pierre story truly affected Eve and Dom's life at all.

7. One problem I had with the novel is the reliability of the narrators. Do you think any of them were telling the truth? Which ones?

I think that Eve was the only one who was telling us things that weren't true and that was just because she was stupid and weak. Benedicte was telling things in a round-about way and from her own point of view but she never told us anything that wasn't, from her perspective, the truth. But there were a lot of lies of omission and mistaken ideas in the story.

This was a really fun group read! Thanks to Carl, Kailana and Heather for the thought-provoking questions and the idea to run this in the first place.

Closing the book,


  1. I have to say that I was quite pleased with the end. The thing about Benedicte going blind was not something I expected, but a good way of resolving the ghosts that had been haunting her.

  2. Thank you for taking part.

    I actually think all of the characters were unreliable at times, telling us things from their points of view that were admittedly flawed. And I think because of that we can read into the story the idea that even characters like Pierre were seen purely from Benedicte's point of view and despite her medical condition there was still a lot of guilt there that clouded her memories and judgement about her siblings.

    I did initially think I would be disappointed by the similarities with Rebecca, but in the end it didn't bother me at all. You are correct in that you really cannot emulate a classic, but I do think you can do work that pays honor to classics and I ended up reading the story more from that point of view and so it worked for me. Yes, it took away some of he suspense of Dom and Eve's story line, but to be honest it didn't negatively effect my enjoyment of how things played out.

    Eve made very poor choices and told herself a lot of lies to justify staying in a relationship despite suspicions and fears. I'm not sure I consider her weak so much as I consider her human. She was lying to herself and on many levels she knew that but wasn't able to overcome that to be assertive...but then eventually she did, circumstances finally forced her to be more brave.

    I too liked the idea of them finding the recordings and how Benedicte and Eve's story tied together. I thought Lawrenson did a great job interweaving these stories, by having Marthe's story partially told by Benedicte but then revealing that it was because of Eve and Sabine, and Rachel, that the full story of Marthe came out. I also liked that at the end of it all Benedicte turns out to be haunting the home and so the presence and scent Eve was experiencing was actually Benedicte all along.

    It was fun. It is a novel that will always suffer if compared to Rebecca and given that Lawrenson used that novel as the foundation for this one she has to contend with that comparison. But even with that issue I found it to be an enjoyable read with a good gothic feel to it.

    So glad you dived in with us and took part in the reading and discussions.

  3. One part that I didn't think of that you did point out was that I actually liked that most of Benedicte's narrative ended up being her recorded oral history (I'm assuming, at least.) It sort of gave a reason for her portions being slightly more meandering and shifty in tenses and times - much how I'd imagine an elderly blind woman telling her life story.

  4. I thought the ending was a little anticlimactic, too. Everything was tidy at the end with not many loose ends and pretty happy as well. It's really hard not to compare the book to Rebecca when this had so many elements that were similar--I guess I'm still a little unsure how I feel about that, but I did enjoy the story--it was a good autumn read even if it has some flaws.

  5. I think if I could have resisted the comparison with Rebecca I would have liked this book a bit better. She would have done a bit better if she had tried to be a bit different.

  6. It's so funny that you liked the part with them staying in the house and starting a family - I SO didn't! I just don't know how they could, after all the skeletons, aborted fetuses, ghosts, and other creepy things hanging around that house!

    All in all, I loved this book the most for it's beautiful writing and it's sense of place - some of the the things I adored most about Rebecca, too, funnily enough. I just wish that Lawrenson had left us with a bit more mystery instead of wrapping up all the endings so nicely. I also would have loved to spend a bit more time in Benedicte's world - her family, her history, Les Genevriers at the time of her childhood: these were the parts I found most fascinating, and I only wish I could have gotten more of them.

    All in all, I'd say that The Lantern wasn't one of my favorite reads but definitely was enjoyable, and I never found myself forcing myself to sit down and read it, if you know what I mean. Plus, I adored the read-a-long (my first!) and it was great to be reading knowing that I'd be hearing all your thoughts as well!

  7. Sabine annoyed the heck out of me. Didn't trust a thing she said either.

    I liked the book, but I agree that the comparisons to Du Maurier's Rebecca hurt more than helped it. I know I was a little defensive about some of the references and thought they might have been overdone!

  8. Bookswithout - I agree. Although I'm always a bit sad when things turn out to have real-world explanations instead of supernatural ones. ;)

    Carl - Yes, the points of view were inherently unreliable but I think that Benedicte gave Pierre the benefit of the doubt many times. I think he was actually worse than she ever thought. We, the readers, could see what she never could.

    Kate - True. It was a reminiscence, which allows us to forgive her a bit more.

    Danielle - I agree. It was a good gothic read but I think it could have been better if it hadn't followed Rebecca so closely.

    Kailana - Exactly.

    Chelsea - I think maybe all of those things were exorcised though when Benedicte's story came out through the tapes. Once they knew the truth, it couldn't harm them anymore -- the same with Rachel's story. It was only harmful when it was a secret.

    Natalie - Yeah, even at the end I thought "well, that's nice that Sabine is her friend all of a sudden". I still didn't trust her. And defensive is a good description for how I felt sometimes too. No one can ever be as good a Mrs. Danvers as Mrs. Danvers (which is another reason that I probably disliked Sabine more than I should have).

  9. Don't miss out on the group discussion with Deborah Lawrenson over on my site. :)