The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

Isn’t it lovely when a novel sweeps you away?

Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern swept me to Provence. To lush countryside so wonderfully evoked that I saw the sights, I heard the sounds, and most of all there were scents, such wonderful scents …

Eve was swept away too. She fell in love with Dom, an older music producer, and they planned a new life together, restoring a run down farmhouse in the country.

At first they were both happy, enjoying an extended honeymoon, but in time cracks appeared.

Eve wondered why Dom would tell her nothing about Rachel, his first wife.

For a while she was distracted by a writing project. In the past she had been a translator of other writers’ works, but she began to plan a novel of her own. Based on the story of the last woman to live in her home.

And so the story of Benedicte entwined with the story of Eve. The story of an old woman haunted by the past, and by the sister and brother who were lost to her. Marthe, her elder sister, had lost her sight in a childhood accident, and yet she went on to become a famous parfumière, the toast of Paris. But their brother, Pierre, cast a shadow over both their lives …

The story twisted back and forth, and I was utterly entranced.

I could have quibbled with a few points, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to keep turning the pages, to go on reading the lovely, descriptive prose, and to find out what would happen, how it would all end.

Eve’s fears grew. She found that Sabine, the woman who had befriended her and had planted the idea for her novel, had known Rachel. And she began to wonder if, maybe, Sabine was manipulating her.

Dom became more and more remote.

And Eve began to wonder if her home was haunted.

In time, of course, the two stories came together, to make a fine and dramatic conclusion.

Now, the present day story may sound a little familiar. You might hear echoes of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca

It is to Deborah Lawrenson’s great credit that she acknowledges her debt to Rebecca, having Eve re-read the novel that she loves so much. And that she updates that story in a way that both subtle and clever.

That, a wonderful story set in the past, and beautifully evoked settings made The Lantern a wonderful summer read.

The story lingers, and so do the sights, the sounds and the scents …