The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson: Read-a-Long Week One


Hello, all! It’s fall break here, so my today and tomorrow are deliciously clear, and so there is no better time to write my own contribution to Carl V.’s read-a-long of The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson! This is the second read-a-long I’m doing with Carl V. for the R.I.P. Challenge, and I’m super excited to have discussion questions to work from this time. The Fragile Things is far more open, and it’ll be fun to mix it up a little. So, without further ado, the questions!

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

I’m loving it (gets McDonalds theme stuck in her head)! It’s been the perfect R.I.P. read and the whole things just smacks of gothic foreshadowing and dark twisty secrets! Lawrenson’s style is lush and is almost as beautiful as the Provence she writes. I’ve often fantasized about doing the ex-pat thing, finding and fixing up an old manor and spending my days reading and market shopping and wine drinking. Of course, this is total fantasy (versus Eve’s similar but more menacing reality) and it’s the discrepancy between my own dream and the way Lawrenson writes the story that has me so intrigued thus far. I also thinks it’s a fantastic show of writer-ship to be able to craft a story clearly lurking beneath the story being told — through everything from foreshadowing to interconnected details, and Lawrenson seems able to do this in spades.

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?

To be honest, a this point, I’m far more interested in our main narrators story than I am in Benedicte’s. Again, the appeal of a modern ‘turning over a new leaf’ tale is too much to overcome a story that’s more quasi- historical fiction than anything else. Of course, I absolutely loathe Pierre, so I will be intrigued to see how the relationship between he and Benedicte develops.

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’m loving the shorter chapters, actually. I feel like it really does help me feel like I’m just zipping along as the chapter numbers get higher and higher, and switching points of view in this manner keeps each chapter ending on a mini-cliff hanger and keeps me from getting overdrawn or tired of any one of the certain stories (I will say that sometimes I got a little worn down by the Eve/Dom relationship drama, which left me very tense and frustrated a certain times).

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

I love, probably more than anything else so far, the opening descriptions of summer at Les Genevriers, the dining on the deck, wine and candles and delicious summer scents and warm evenings. I think it’s this love Lawrenson created in me for the summer setting that caused such delicious growing tension as the seasons progressed in to fall. Which, you know, is pretty, but for me doesn’t pack the same punch as the summer setting. I also greatly admire the way that Lawrenson is able to use the shifting seasons to both create ans mirror the shifting tensions and dynamics between both Eve and Dom and Benedicte and the rest of her family unit. As a writer, I know that can be difficult to do well, and I think Lawrenson pulls it off beautifully!

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

Pierre and the kitten! That’s all I’m going to say in case I’m mistaken and this actually happens in part three. But if you know what I’m talking about, then yeah. It’s been a long time since a single action by a single character has literally filled me with so much anger and disgust that I was literally shaking.

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

I have mixed feelings about Dom. Right at the very beginning, I was as enchanted by him as Eve was. He seemed funny and kind and sexy as all hell!! However, I got way sick and tired of this whole “don’t-ask-me-about-Rachel-or-I’ll-be-MAD” thing A LOT sooner than Eve did. I mean, for real. I can get being devastated by an ex and that loss. But after a certain amount of time it’s just, like, DUDE! Get over yourself! You’re either ready to be in a new relationship or your not, and I’m so not letting you jerk me around while you figure it out! There was something very Max DeWinter about him (which is no surprise, considering the many obvious similarities), but I think that the reason this didn’t bother me as much with Max as it did with Dom is that Max had the oodles of charm to pull it off, and Dom so just doesn’t!

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?

Ohmygoodness YES!! Of course!! The only way, I think, you could miss them is if you’ve never read Rebecca! Especially when Eve begins with such strong foreshadowing to a broken romance and destroyed way of life all centered around a house…yeah. I definitely heard the echoes! The only thing that really bugged me, actually, was that Rebecca was actually brought up within the story as being just like the story currently happening. Stuff like that just never quite sits right with me – it’s like yelling a subtext at the top of your lungs, hitting the reader about the face with subtlety. I’d like to be trusted to get it on my own a bit more!

Well, y’all, there you have it! I’m sure it’ll be one of the last ones up, but I couldn’t miss out on the post completely, but better way later than intended than never at all! Happy reading!


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Caroline
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 08:25:26

    I think I enjoyed reading your post much more than the book. I can see how appealing it could be but for one reason or the other, it didn’t touch me, despite the fact that I’ve been dreaming the dream of living in the South of France as well.
    Your post hasrekindled my interest in the book.
    I agree, the short chapters are nice, I somtimes like the feeling of speeding through a novel.
    I will continue reading with new enthusiasm thanks to you.


  2. Nymeth
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 11:09:20

    Sounds like a great RIPish read – I’m glad yo hear you’re enjoying it!


  3. Grace
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 13:37:22

    I’d also love to do the whole expat thing, although in my case I’d go to Russia and sit in cafes reading Dostoevsky all day…

    Pierre freaks me out. I couldn’t stand being around someone who would torture kittens and butterflies. It’s just wrong.


  4. Kate
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 17:20:13

    I like your assessment of Dom! I agree, and maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I would have moved to France with a man who won’t even tell me what happened to his ex-wife and it frustrated me that “Eve” was either so trusting or too naive to find that odd. Yes, he’s been hurt, I know, but it sort of seems like a rather massive red flag if your partner can’t at least tell you about what’s obviously a painful past experience. I’d flag that one up as “unresolved issues” and probably “trust issues” myself.


    • Chelsea
      Oct 11, 2011 @ 19:41:52

      Caroline – I think that the problem I usually have with books like this is if I’m just completely not at all familiar with the place in which the book is taking place (not saying this is your problem, at all! But that’s how it usually goes for me). I’ve never been to the south of France, but I have been to Italy and know that a lot of the climate and culture can be similar. It’s the reason that books set lushly and vividly in Russia or eastern Asia don’t resonate with me – a powerful author capable of creating an environment is one thing. The ability to in detail and with full senses imagine a place foreign to me? No way! Thank you so much for citing me as a source of inspiration – that’s so kind! – and I hope you’re enjoying the reading, whatever it is that’s getting you to it!

      Nymeth – It’s a GREAT, FANTASTIC, GUSHABLE R.I.P. read! I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to get to Rebecca this R.I.P season, and I still don’t think I’m going to, but with reading this, it’s kind of okay that I won’t be get to it! Not the same story, and not quite as much of a favorite, but a more than wonderfully accurate stand in!

      Grace – I KNOW. I mean, of all the wonderful settings, well-done characters (so far), and plot that gets more and more thrilling, I have a feeling that it’s going to be Pierre and the horror he’s capable of (THE KITTEN OH SWEET GOD THE KITTEN) that’s going to stick with me. And not necessarily in a bad way, although he seems to be a pretty bad kid – I definitely think it’s a powerful testament to Lawrenson’s writing!

      Kate – So you can see where my frustration comes from, then? hehe! I mean, the whole story revolves around this horrible secret that he won’t tell but she never really even asks! I mean, she does, but I’d be pushing the issue WAY harder and if he still didn’t answer, fine, but I’m definitely not coming to Provence with you, and I’m definitely DEFINITELY not staying after he gets more moody and creepy things start happening! We’ll see, but I really think Dom’s going to have to shape up, or I’ll be shipping him out of characters I’m fond of!


  5. Kristen M.
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 02:00:48

    I really hope something very bad happens to Pierre. And I agree that there are parts that just seem a bit heavy-handed with the Rebecca-ing of the story. I would be happier if there were subtle similarities that an observant reader could catch instead of the “hitting the reader about the face” that you mentioned. I was just waiting for a Mrs. Danvers moment.


  6. Carl V.
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 15:24:15

    Your answer the the first question is word for word the way I feel about the book thus far. Lovely way of putting things.

    I do really like how the story started in summer and is progressing into fall. While it is an obvious parallel to what is going on in Eve’s life as well I still love that fact.

    Pierre is just a disturbing surprise in general, isn’t he?

    I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I find it entertaining how quick everyone is to get frustrated with Eve. I don’t think it is quite fair considering that the character is in the midst of that first ‘honeymoon’ phase of her relationship and while Dom has been somewhat of a jerk about this one aspect of his life he has not been a complete jerk to her. And reality unfortunately bears out the fact that many men AND women stay in and put up with relationships with much worse interactions and tough it out. Don’t you all remember what it was like in the “love is blind” part of your relationships, when you were willing to overlook faults thinking that they were either no big deal or that you could “fix” that person? LOL!

    Not to say that I’m not annoyed with Eve’s lack of assertiveness about this, but I don’t find it wildly unreasonable to think that the average person would be reacting the same way she is at this point in a relationship where they were caught up in a whirlwind romance.

    The Rebecca similarities haven’t gotten to the annoying point…yet…but I could see where that could get more frustrating as the book moves forward.


  7. Kailana
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 15:48:26

    This book is setting a wonderful mood for this time of the year. I am really enjoying it! I have to answer the questions for this week so I can read the end!


  8. Michelle @ 1morechapter
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 01:17:06

    I really wanted to do this readalong. Maybe I can catch up….


  9. Trackback: The R.I.P. VI Challenge: A Wrap-Up « Book Maven’s Blog

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