book review: The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

The Lantern: A NovelThe basics: The Lantern is the story of Eve, a British freelance translator, and Dom, a musician, who are also a new couple who fell hard and fast in love and move to a crumbling home in Provence. It's also the story of Benedictine, who grew up in the same house. Her voice alternates chapters with Eve's.

My thoughts: From the beginning, I enjoyed Lawrenson's writing immensely. Although The Lantern was a relatively fast read, it is also a smart, gothic tale. I was most enchanted with the way Lawrenson wove in Eve's love of reading. Their was romance to it: wouldn't any of us jump at the chance to work as we wished, not worry about money, read all day and live in Provence? The books begins as a reader's escape, but it moves into deeper territory as Eve ponders her lot in life more and more:
"Change is not always visible, as the turn of the season is, or the natural process of aging. We are so many different people in one lifetime."
As a reader, I was also fascinated by the way Lawrenson seemed to play with genre. At first glance, The Lantern is a romance and a bit of a reality fantasy. As darkness creeps in, the reader shares Eve's struggle wondering if she's being paranoid or smart; if she's foolish or prudent. I read thrillers and mysteries, and when you're sure you're reading one, the characters are always making foolish mistakes. In real(er) life, though, how do you know when to trust your instincts and when to dismiss uneasiness as paranoia? For me, this issue of paranoia was central to the book:
"I sometimes wonder how much of our life is rooted in the imagination, in the stories we tell ourselves and others in order to make sense of what has happened along the way. Unable to accept the unvarnished truth of our situations, we have to make them more palatable to ourselves as well as to others."
I thoroughly enjoyed The Lantern. I was eager to discover its secrets, as I was utterly unsure if my guesses were correct (some were; some weren't.) I would stop short of calling it a true thriller, but it had the intrigue of one, while also taking the time to delve into the deeper questions of life, identity and memory.

Favorite passage: "Where lies the line between books and life, fact and fiction? Of seeing and being seen? It was only now, when events were unfolding, that I recognized, from books rather than experience, that I truly appreciated the boundaries between reality and art. Before, I would read to understand, to think: yes, that person has a dilemma, those were the options available, and--for better or worse--that was the solution she or he chose. I have always argued for the fundamental honesty of fiction. But now I could see more sharply where the honesty lies. Possibly not in the stripping bare of the soul or on the crest of high drama, but in the small details and observations."

The verdict: While I started off much preferring the modern story to the older one, by the end, I was equally enchanted with both women and their lives. At times haunting, beautiful, spooky and inspiring, The Lantern is an engaging read.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Length: 384 pages
Publication date: August 9, 2011
Source: publisher, via TLC Book Tours

Connect with Deborah: visit her website, blog, and Facebook page.

Treat yourself! Buy The Lantern from Amazon in hardback, for the Kindle, or from an independent bookstore.

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. I so wish I'd signed up for this tour! This sounds like a great read plus it's about a freelance translator! (I'm a freelance translator too, but I don't think I've ever read a novel about one.) Great review!

  2. I've seen this book around on various book lists, but not a review that made it sound as appealing as yours. It looks like this is one I should make time for.

  3. I am reading this one very soon, and am rather excited after reading your review. I love a good Gothic read, and the fact that it has such a focus on books really appeals to me as well. This was a great review, and now I can't wait to start it!

  4. If this can transport me to another world where I can read all day, not worry about money AND get caught up in a gothic tale, I'm all in, LOL!!

  5. This sounds FABulous. I love books like this in general, and in some surface way this one reminds me of something Siri Hustvedt might write. Maybe it's the mention of paranoia. Will definitely check it out!

  6. This seems like it's going to be the "it" book of the season.

  7. I don't read a lot of books in this genre so I am looking forward to reading this so I can try something a little different as I think it sounds great.

  8. Thank you so much for this very perceptive review! I'm most appreciative of the way you highlighted the "books and reading" aspect, which, as you say, is crucial to the novel.

    I'd love to post a link on the book's facebook page, if that's OK with you.

    All the best,

  9. I'm glad both storylines ended up pulling you in by the end!

    Thanks for being on the tour.


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