Monday, October 10, 2011

The Lantern Group Read: Parts 1 & 2

The first week of the group read of The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson has just ended. This book is conveniently broken up into parts and so we read Part 1 and Part 2 this week (only 130 quick-reading pages if you still want to catch up and join in). Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings is the host for the week and these are his questions --

(NOTE: The first few answers are spoiler-free. I'll let you know when potential spoilers creep in later.)

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

I think this is a great opening question because I wasn't immediately drawn into the book. As mentioned in the next question, the story alternates back and forth between two women in the same place but in different eras and it took some time to understand either story line and become invested in them. Once I got used to the switching narratives though and figured out the time frames, I started enjoying the story much more. I'm still not sure exactly where it's going but I'm more interested in finding out than I was in the first 40 pages.

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?

Right now I'm enjoying both equally. They are very different stories--one of an old woman remembering her childhood and the other of a young woman at the beginning of an adult relationship--and so, though I see no real intersection yet between the stories, I am interested in where they are going.

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?

I'll answer the second part first and say that I'm really liking the short chapters for some reason. It's almost like a soap opera where you experience a scene and then move on to a different story. Not that I like soap operas at all, but it's working in this book for me. And it makes the book just fly by, doesn't it?

The scents, on the other hand, are confusing me. I knew they would be a big part of the story when the prologue began with a heavily descriptive bit about scents but, because they are a much harder thing to conjure up in the mind (as opposed to images), I wasn't sure if it would work so well. At one point, I was able to imagine a warm breeze over a field of lavender because I have an established brain pathway for the scent of lavender. But then, elsewhere in the novel, another scent or combination of odors will be mentioned and I have no reference for it in my mind and that section will just fall completely flat for me. It reminds me of when someone begins talking about the composition of a wine (I'm not really a wine drinker because the fermented grapes just taste like death and decomposition to me), the notes of this and hints of that, and I have no idea what they are talking about. Sometimes I don't believe that they are really getting all of that out of a sip and sometimes I just don't care. And that's how I feel about some of the scent descriptions in the book. I have no frame of reference and so I am either skeptical that someone was paying that much attention to individual scents or I just don't care because it's not conjuring anything up for me. And yet, some of them still somehow grab me and draw me a bit more into the atmosphere of the story. So, yeah ... I'm torn.

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

(This answer is really SPOILERY. Move along to the next question if you don't want to know plot details!)

I think the atmosphere of Benedicte's story is truly menacing because her brother Pierre is actually evil and bad. I don't know if I'm so afraid of his ghost but I'm terrified of the real boy. I'm worried about what actually ends up happening to Benedicte and those around her.

The unnamed protagonist's storyline, however, is much more ambiguous. I would describe it as invoking a sense of nervousness and doubt. I believe Benedicte's reminiscences are true (and even kind of believe that she is seeing real ghosts) but I am not sure if I believe in this woman's feelings or not. Part of me thinks Dom could be shady but part thinks that she is just overreacting to things. Even with her "he's done a bad thing" speech at the beginning, I still don't trust her entirely.

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

I'm not sure that anything has surprised me or really stood out yet. There's certainly a sense of building tension in both stories but it's pretty evenly paced. I'm hoping that the next two parts will have some shockers in them.

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

(Very SPOILERY again. Move along.)

I still kind of like Dom and I feel sorry that his girlfriend is constantly badgering him to give up info about his ex-wife that he obviously doesn't want to talk about! I think it's because I've always liked Max de Winter despite everything and I'm kind of banking on Rachel being a bit of a Rebecca. I mean, Dom did save the girlfriend from the collapsing roof, right? Yes, he might have actually caused the cave-in and just saved her at the last minute for some reason but there's no proof of that! And hey, he's a musician so there's ample reason for him to be moody and brooding. Not to mention the fact that his girlfriend is a mooch. ;) Just kidding!

Bonus question: Did anyone else hear "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" ringing in their ears through the first sections of the book?


This is a tough one for me because, being a big fan of Rebecca, I notice when things are similar to that classic story (like the protagonist with no name) but I also notice when things are pointedly different. Then it feels a little heavy-handed, like Lawrenson is writing "see, my narrator has a new house with her man and new sheets and new trinkets and she doesn't have to step into another woman's house like the girl who went to Manderley did!" But then we find out that maybe not all of those trinkets are new and maybe the stories are more alike after all and ...

On to parts three and four,


  1. I wasn't immediately drawn into this book either, but boy did that change quickly!

  2. I thought the same thing with the roof collapse. He obviously cares about her if he's willing to save her like that... at the same time, he acts rather creepy anytime Eve mentions Rachel.

    I agree that the start was a bit slow, to the point that I was afraid it was going to be more "romance" and less "gothic." I'm glad that changed!

  3. I have to admit, I even found a du Maurier association with the ex-wife's name, Rachel, having read My Cousin Rachel long before Rebecca. But that could just me!

  4. Ugh, I'm getting more and more annoyed with Eve/Dom the more I'm reading. I just want to shake her sometimes and yell "get answers or get out!" I guess it's just not a situation I see myself doing the same things in. Beyond that, I do think that Lawrenson has done a great job creating a conflicted character in Dom. I also think I just liked Max de Winter more because he had more charm. I mean, yeah, he was moody, but at least when he was on he was ON. I feel like Dom just...doesn't have that. Can't wait to see what you have to say next week!


  5. Lola - Glad to hear it! I just read through the next two sections and am debating whether to just finish the book early tonight. ;)

    Bookswithout - I'm glad you thought the same thing about the roof. I didn't want to be giving Dom more credit than was due. And the gothic definitely picks up as the book goes on (thankfully!).

    Kate - The author mentions that link right at the end of the second part but I caught it earlier too. I guess it's a du Maurier homage and not just Rebecca!

    Chelsea - I want to shake her too! She's so weak and sneaky. And I totally get what you're saying about Dom and Max. Max made more of an effort and just got caught up is his moods sometimes. I feel like the author is glossing over the times when Dom is like that -- kind of heavy-handedly pointing us to the bad times instead.

  6. I stumbled just a bit at the beginning to and I think that it was in large part to the quick introduction of a second narrator and the lack of clear insight into who was speaking in some parts of the book. That did pass though and now I'm really engaged.

    It does indeed make the book fly by more quickly with the short chapters. Also gives the sense that one is accomplishing a lot of reading even if it is really only a handful of pages.

    I do like good wine and often wish I had the ability to tell more about the different flavors and ingredients by taste and scent. I do believe some people have really attuned scent ability and it is one thing I wish I had as I do love the way things smell in general. Of course if it also meant that I picked up more of the rank smells then maybe it would be a gift with too much of a curse, LOL!

    I find it interesting to read the scent descriptions in large part because I just like the way the language flows together. I like seeing words used in that way. And it creates in me a longing to be able to be more scent conscious which helps conjure up the kind of melancholy feeling that adds to the reading of a book of this kind.

    I'm with you in that it is too early in Parts 1 and 2 to entirely trust that Eve is telling us things the way we would see them if we were an impartial observer. Dom may turn out to be horrible, and he is certainly moody, but I am not feeling as harshly about him at this point as some readers are. I need to see a bit more.

    Interesting ideas about this story in comparison to Rebecca. I hadn't thought about it like that at all. Now I'll be looking at these next two parts a bit more closely.

  7. Carl - Yes, the narrator switching confused me at the beginning too, especially because they were talking about the same house and land! And it's true that the language of the scents is beautiful. I think it's very tricky when basing a modern story on a classic. It's hard to make it just the right balance of old and new and not come off as a copy-cat.

  8. I haven't been able to decide what I think yet of the obvious Rebecca elements. I guess this is basically a retelling of the story and that's fine--but I'll be very curious to see how it ends and whether she totally sticks with the Rebecca story--I suppose as she has thus far the ending might not be as much of a surprise as I am expecting? I started out preferring Eve's story to Benedicte's, but now I think I prefer Benedicte. I think those last 80 pages are going to fly by!

  9. Danielle - It's tough when a book follows in the footsteps of such a well-loved classic. I doubt anything could ever measure up. It's just a matter of how far behind it falls. ;)