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Group Read: The Lantern (last set of questions)

October 24, 2011
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First I have to say thank you to Carl who sent me his copy so I could participate! Here’s the main group read postWell, I didn’t get around to doing the first two sets of questions, but I have finished the book so I’ll participate in this last round. It’s my bookclub book and we’ll be discussing it next Saturday so I might add an addendum later.

1. Now that it’s all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?
I have to say, at some point I kind of stopped caring about the ending because it didn’t feel very suspenseful. It wasn’t surprising, it just sort of… ended. Was Bene supposed to be a ghost at the end? I think so… but it didn’t seem to matter much.
2. What do you think of the characters? Lawrenson took us on a twisty little ride there, I had trouble deciding who was good and who wasn’t for a while there! What do you think of Dom? Of Sabine? Rachel?
I thought Dom was interesting but ultimately overplayed (really? all this because he feels guilty? whatever). Sabine: crafty, probably the most interesting character. Rachel: meh. Typical. Crazy ex-wife, crazy all the way through, bizarre ending for her. I thought Eve was interesting too, but underdeveloped.
3. Pierre was such a conflicted character. In the end, do you think he killed Marthe and Annette, or did the fall to their deaths because of their blindness?
I thought it was pretty obvious that he killed them. Why else the elaborate coverup?
4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier’s writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description?
Not really. Rebecca is such a masterful work of suspense and dread and gothic atmosphere. This book started well, but didn’t really go anywhere. I wish Rachel had been killed somehow (well, killed more dramatically or evilly) — as it was, the book just felt utterly deflated. Like Christian rock (sorry, Christian rock fans). It’s supposed to be all dark and atmospheric but in the end it’s all just a big misunderstanding with a happy ending and everything. Meh.
5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?
I didn’t so much have problems with the book as I was just disappointed. I think that’s a bigger failure. I wasn’t very entertained, although it was mildly interesting. I thought the back-and-forth narration was a gimmick without any big payoff. The book would have been fine without it, with Marthe’s story told in some other way. You expect a big payoff, after all this hype and drawn-out storytelling. But I think I just felt cheated at the end. The big reveal was a big nothing, Pierre dies without any drama, Dom is forgiven (and never had anything to worry about anyway), the ghost storyline never really develops, there’s no serial killer… I feel cheated. Disappointed. It was a Red Tent book. It could have been so much better.
6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?
I think it totally could have been tied together better. I saw somewhere that someone was speculating that perhaps Pierre’s descendants killed the modern-day girls. That would have been something. Or Marthe was truly a ghost, trying to get closure. But no. Instead, it all felt very flat. I did not feel any drama around Benedicte’s storyline, and didn’t feel compelled to understand why she needed to stay around in her house. So she got jilted. So she had an abortion. So what?
7. One problem I had with the novel is the reliability of the narrators. Do you think any of them were telling the truth? Which ones?
Who knows. This question never occurred to me. I felt like there was supposed to be some big mystery built up, but it didn’t pan out at all. I mean, every single mysterious line she spent all this time building up, fell flat. Not even a local serial killer! Most of the girls were found safe! BORING.
Needless to say, I am disappointed with this book. There were parts that I liked — I loved the descriptions of the house, of Provence, of the perfume-making, of the old traditions. I loved Benedicte’s love story and didn’t mind that it ended badly, but wished it had somehow carried over to the rest of the novel. I know it was supposed to, with the lantern and all, but somehow it felt forced and disconnected. I liked Eve and I even liked Dom, although I think he wimped out in the end. I would have liked him better if he had turned out to be a Heathcliff, all wild and passionate and out of control. Instead, he’s just a remorseful schmuck who got played by a narcissist.
I wish this had been a different book. I wish the ghosts had been real (Bene doesn’t count because I don’t see her doing much haunting — or at least, no haunting of consequence — the lantern thing was silly). I wish there had been a real murder that Dom was running from. Or something more morally ambiguous than helping someone with assisted suicide in a Swiss hospital. I wish Eve had uncovered something truly horrible. I wish Sabine knew more than she really did. I wish the artist guy had been a serial killer. I wish the house was forever unsellable because the bloodstains would never wash out and everyone knew it was haunted.
Or something.
Anyway — I guess I didn’t hate the book, but I am bitterly disappointed in it. I am going to be curious what my bookclub feels about it. I hope they aren’t too bummed by it.
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17 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2011 7:10 am

    I’m sorry you ended up being so disappointed by the book. By and large I feel completely opposite of the way you do, without totally disagreeing with you, if that makes any sense. I believe some of your complaints stem from what you “wanted” the book to be rather than what it “is”, and my opinion is that what it “is” is exactly the kind of book it was meant to be. It was meant to be a contemporary revival of sorts of this kind of older gothic romance and I’ve read enough of these to feel that it works very well at achieving that goal.

    I personally am glad that there was no serial killer, that Dom didn’t actually murder his wife, etc. To me those are very played out modern story lines and I wanted something more nostalgic and The Lantern fit that bill very well.

    • October 24, 2011 7:36 pm

      I can see all of that. Yes, I think I was disappointed because I wanted it to be something else… but I also think that there was so much lead-up and drama, and then it just fell flat with a total collapse of the suspense. I would have been okay if it had turned out a different way than I’d wanted, but it just felt very deflated and… boring. Which is quite a bad thing for a book. Which is NOT to say that I didn’t like the book… I did like it, actually, but I just had a lot of problems with it.

  2. October 24, 2011 7:55 am

    I love you.

    Also, yes with the serial killer plot petering out, and yes with Pierre getting no comeuppance. I think both of those “endings” would have made me feel as played as Dom if I had suspected that there was a serial killer on the loose. Not enough time was spent with that, so it just felt like a red herring from the start.

    • October 24, 2011 7:37 pm

      Ha! I love you too! 🙂

      Yes, too many red herrings. I totally get what Carl is saying about it just being a gentler book than perhaps some of us wanted, but I feel like we were being led along the Big Dramatic Big Big Thing path, and then it just petered out.

  3. October 24, 2011 8:13 am

    I enjoyed a few parts but after finishing my thoughts are very close to yours. “Deflated” is nicely put. Gimmick as well. I used “Cheap trick”. I felt somewhat manipulated too.
    Dom didn’t work for me, he should have done something far worse.
    I didn’t mind reading it but I was disappointed by the end.

    • October 24, 2011 7:39 pm

      I sort of feel like I felt with The Help, although with The Help I didn’t feel like it turned out differently than I thought it would — I just felt like it was a bad book hyped all to hell. But with this book, I thought it was actually quite lovely… just really missed out on some great plot turns by petering everything out.

  4. October 24, 2011 10:35 am

    I actually didn’t mind the ending, but then again, I’ve been reading a lot of books lately that have sad/depressing endings, and so it was nice to find one that ended on a happy note for a change.

  5. October 25, 2011 8:51 am

    That was nice of Carl to send you a copy!

    That’s too bad you didn’t like this book a bit more. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the gothic feel, but there were a few things I wasn’t crazy about. I am hoping to catch-up and put my post up tomorrow.

    • October 25, 2011 12:33 pm

      I wish I had liked it more! I didn’t *dis*like it, but I thought it had some problems and I was disappointed. Or rather, my probably-inflated expectations were not met.

  6. Chelsea permalink
    October 25, 2011 11:19 am

    “I feel like we were being led along the Big Dramatic Big Big Thing path, and then it just petered out.” – YES!!! That’s the perfect way to describe it! LOVE IT!! hehe.

    I think I felt this most strongly in the ‘mercy killing’ as well as in Bendicte’s being blind – I wish Lawrenson had left us some damn mystery! Every plot line (minus the serial killer, who I kept forgetting was even there until he would be mentioned again) was wrapped up with it’s nice little bow and while sometimes I like that, here I just felt like it was a cop-out on Lawrenson’s part. Especially the fact that Benedict wasn’t seeing ghosts but ended up being one herself. It just felt…lacking.

    I will say, however, that I don’t quite agree with you on the dislike of the book as a whole (I guess I shouldn’t overstep myself and say ‘disappointment’ rather than ‘dislike) – the writing was beautiful enough that I loved it to pieces, and I really didn’t mind the homage to Rebecca – I think it really does just come down to what your expecting v. what you get and how different the two are. I just tried not to set the bar too high when I picked up this little beauty. And good thing to – I don’t know how it would fare against hope of absolute adoration.

    Thanks for participating in what has been a great read-a-long (my first!) and I truly couldn’t have had a better time!

    • October 25, 2011 4:55 pm

      I didn’t hate it either, I liked the writing and I thought the setting and gothic overtones were great. I was just disappointed by the end and I felt like she really copped out on a lot of threads, and that left me with an overall feeling of disappointment. But it wasn’t a bad book — I just wished it was something different.

      • October 30, 2011 7:51 am

        Hey Daphne, you should come over and chat with Deborah on my site. I think you have some interesting things to say/ask and that you might enjoy the post.

  7. October 25, 2011 11:19 am

    Ok, so, what happened in The Red Tent again?

    • October 25, 2011 12:35 pm

      That was the one set in Biblical times, with the Red Tent being where all the women went during “their time.” It started off really good, and the writing was decent, but it just totally failed to capitalize on all its strengths and ultimately fell flat. I can’t remember the specifics anymore, but I remember feeling so disappointed — “This SHOULD have been such a great book! It COULD have been! But it’s just…. not.” It didn’t live up to its own potential, and I feel like that’s what happened here.

  8. October 26, 2011 12:56 pm

    That would have been a fantastic tie-in if Pierre’s descendent killed the recent string of unsolved murders. I was a little let down with the fact that there wasn’t anything more to that segment of the story, and that wasn’t anything more mysterious with it. I even would have been happy with the deaths still being connected, but no murderer having been found, etc.

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  1. The Lantern (group read, week 3) | Susan Hated Literature

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