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The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

The Lantern is Deborah Lawrenson's debut novel.  It's very atmospheric, foreboding, suspenseful, lyrical, and haunting.  The lush, isolated landscape of the French countryside becomes its own character in the novel.

Eve meets Dom, an older gentleman, by chance while on a job in Switzerland.  Immediately the two embark upon a whirlwind love affair that continues after both return to London.  Dom, a previously married man, is mysterious, closed off about his past, and given to mercurial and dark moods.  Their love affair exists in its own isolated bubble--neither makes much effort to introduce the other to family or friends, especially Dom, who insists on compartmentalizing his past and his present; he refuses to discuss the former with Eve because he claims it is too painful.

When Dom proposes moving to an isolated, run down, long uninhabited estate in the Provence countryside, Eve agrees to go with him that summer.  But as the two pass the summer in France, Eve realizes she needs to know more about Rachel, Dom's mysterious former wife whom he refuses to talk about.  As summer fades into autumn, Eve embarks upon a research project determined to find out more about Rachel through her own means even as she becomes aware of the growing distance between herself and Dom.

Interspersed with the present story is the story of Benedicte, the previous resident and former owner of the haunted estate upon which Eve and Dom now reside.  Born and raised there, Benedicte spent nearly her entire life on the estate and as she tells her story a dark, cruel streak emerges in her childhood that is rooted in the twisted and dark nature of her brother Pierre, who tore the wings off butterflies, flayed kittens, stole things and was not above abusing and using his own sister.

When Benedicte's and Dom's complete histories emerge, it is tragic, terrifying and harrowing--and not what the reader expects.

I recommend you check out this book the next time you visit the library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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