The Lantern

A couple of weeks ago my Mum called to enthuse about a new book she was reading. When she finally revealed that this new masterpiece she’d discovered was The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson I was delighted.

I became aware of Deborah initially as a blogger when her smiley face first popped up among my Google friends; a hugely exciting experience when you’ve just started out. Having a click around and acquainting myself with her marvellous blog I was doubly excited to discover that she was a published author in her own right and, even better, writing and living in a part of the world that holds a special place in my heart; a world that plays the starring role in both in her blog and in The Lantern.

Lawrenson transports us right into her world from the word go as we follow couple Eve and Dom as they make the brave move to install themselves permanently in a beautiful, tumbledown farmhouse (Les Genévriers – Juniper trees! I even learnt a new French word) in the heart of Provence, removing themselves without much difficulty from their executive lifestyles. Provence. Tick. Love story. Tick. Now, to give this tale a splash of the extra special? How about a great big mystery and a ghost story to boot? Perfect.

Eve and Dom’s first months at Les Genévriers seem oh so cosy. There was so much to connect with in this book for me; a cosy relationship where you are both more than happy to close yourselves off from the world in a happy bubble…a love of France, literature and music…a languages specialist inspired to begin writing a book of her very own… This connection I felt with the main protagonist, a woman roughly my age who craves good conversation, good wine and a good book meant that I found this an even more enjoyable portrait of Provence than the Marcel Pagnol classics.
However, this sedate existence soon begins to alter radically as Eve finds it increasingly difficult to understand the caginess of her partner towards certain aspects of his past life without her, most particularly his ex-wife Rachel, who we become more and more suspicious of as the story progresses and the mood of the tale darkens…

Wonderfully interspersed with this modern drama is the tale of Benedicte and her blind sister Marthe, young women who inhabited this very same farmhouse (and perhaps still do) in the first half of the twentieth century and whose stories will eventually collide in the most spectacular fashion with that of Eve. This change of perspective/tone every other chapter really kept things going for me and kept the story even more fresh and exciting.

It is in the striking hills, lavender fields and flora and fauna of a provençal garden where Lawrenson’s singularly sumptuous and florid prose really comes into its own. I just found myself wanting to taste/bury my nose into everything she described, even the most mundane everyday objects:

‘Bénédicte drifts through the rooms of the lower floors, into the dust of venerable scents:flecks of the lavender held in the corners of drawers; flakes of pinewood armoire; the soot of long-dead fires; and, from the present, the deep mossy aroma from cloud formations of damp above the rose-tiled floor; the sharp white smells of late-spring flowers outside.’

     p. 9

Anyone who is familiar with this part of the world will understand just how well such a passage evokes the nature, heat and history of the old farmhouses, cicadas and lavender of Provence. I can also think of no better writing style to tell the story of a blind young girl who harnesses her extraordinary sense of smell to forge a career as a perfumier in Paris, periodically sending her sister dried flowers and other tokens that evoke memories of childhood, love…a wealth of different things depending on the recipient. For me, it evoked childhood holidays in the South of France, spooky farmhouses, gorgeous food and the white heat of the midday sun.
This is a beautiful story with exquisitely dark undertones. Who haunts this beautiful section of countryside? Is Dom really who he first appeared to be? Lawrenson pulls you first in one direction and then the other as you attempt to unravel the mysteries of Les Genévriers for yourself. I found myself texting my Mum throughout with exclamations and ideas as to where the story could be going. She, who always always figures out the plot of any book/film/TV drama right from the very beginning, was as gripped with suspense and excitement as myself until the very last page.
Do go out and read this right now. This book is great and the rather wooden (sorry!) TV Book Club review was far too lackluster to review such a fantastic novel. Top marks!
This was a lovely ending to Paris in July and I’d just like to thank Book Bath and Thyme for Tea first of all for hosting this exciting event and to all of you bloggers out there who participated and have provided me with some top notch reviews and entertaining frenchie posts to read this month. I only wish I’d had time to post more! 


l’année prochaine! 

5 thoughts on “The Lantern

  1. I saw the panel discuss this novel on 'The TV Book Club' a few weeks ago and I thought their reaction was very mixed. However, being a regular reader of Deborah Lawrenson's blog, I know that 'The Lantern', is going to be a very well written book. So I have this on TBR list. Great review.


  2. Oh, Relish – what a lovely, lovely review to find as I followed the link from my blog back here. Thank you so much – and to your Mum!You absolutely got everything I was trying to achieve, and I'm so delighted. I'd like to post a link here from the book's official facebook page, if that's OK with you.


  3. @Spangle – Thanks 🙂 I have to say, and not necessarily because of their mediocre review of such a good book, I'm not overly keen on The TV Book Club. On paper it could work – Jo Brand, Dave Spikey…but in reality I just find it really WOODEN. **Yawn** 🙂


  4. @Deborah – Oh I'm so chuffed you liked the review, I knew from reading your blog that I was going to love the book but still didn't realise just HOW MUCH I would! I really hoped to do it justice – You transported me back to France and it has everything in it I love – interesting relationships, setting, mystery, history… Thankyou for putting it all down on paper! 😀 I would be delighted to be linked on the Facebook page xx


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