Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"The Lantern" Group Read Conclusion - Spoilers

This group read discussion is hosted over at Stainless Steel Droppings and it is filled with spoilers, so please don't read this post if you are intending to read the book. If you would like a spoiler-free review, please check out Grace's review, on Books Without Any Pictures, here

1. Now that it’s all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?

I didn't see Rachel's dark side coming. I thought that was well done. The reader also was let on that Dom killed Rachel early on, and he actually did kill her (though not in a way the reader expected).

I also didn't expect Benedicte's whole episode with aborting her baby. That was rather shocking, and must have been traumatic.

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?

Dom - I love this character. I fully understood his grief at the end, and could at least sympathize with his perspective. This was the best developed character of the lot.

Sabine - I actually suspected Sabine of not-so-nice things for a while there. At one point I even thought she may have been linked to the murders. She turns out to be rather benign.

Rachel- Another well developed character (probably second most interesting to read about). We see a side of her that makes her out to be a saint, but then discover she has a much darker side. Her qualities remind me of someone with a severe case of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Benedicte- Meh. (Although my interest was piqued with the whole marriage/baby thing...)

Eve - Meh. (Although, my interest was piqued when she briefly mentioned her conflict growing up at home.)

Pierre - Read my answer to the following question.

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 didn't think Pierre was all that 'conflicted' of a character. He seemed pretty one dimensional. For reasons unknown to the reader (except for just liking to be bad), he was an evil and sadistic boy who grew up to be an evil, sadistic man. His character is essentially the same at the end of the novel as it is in the beginning. And of course he killed Marthe and Annette.

4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier’s writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description?

I haven't read "Rebecca."

5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?

Yes. A few actually though I'm only going to explain one:

a. Deaths of local girls being unrelated to each other, but most of all unrelated to the main characters of the book:

This is my biggest beef with the book. While the descriptions of scents is a unique thing about this novel, the novel itself follows a pretty traditional plot and story arc. It's not an avant-garde work in the least. However, the deaths are unrelated because, well, let's let the author explain:

 "All of which goes to show how dangerous it is to assume connections where there are none, to link events that have no link, to want tidy storytelling when real life is not like that, to draw too much on the imagination when it is so often misleading."

Um... book? Hello, book? You are telling the reader to not expect tidy storytelling when your antagonist could easily audition for the role of Disney villain and you have done nothing but share a tidy, although extremely aromatic, story thus far? Really?

If this were Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49 or Beckett's Waiting for  Godot, I could see a plot point like that being made, as those stories are non traditional from the get go, and break all literary and stylistic convention. They make no pretense of following any sort of literary convention while this novel does, the whole way through, except when it came to that little detail.

And it didn't contribute anything to the story for the author to make that point. As a reader, I felt a little cheated that the author would show us a loaded gun, so to speak, at the beginning, and then explain that it wasn't a gun, but a gun shaped bunch of licorice.

It just doesn't work for me. I didn't buy it. And I found the point to be pretentious.

The thought also crossed my mind that the author didn't know how to connect the murders of local girls to the main story, and so dismissed the whole thing as irrelevant. Yes, the murders aided in casting suspicion on Dom, but so did Rachel's disappearance. Dom was extremely suspicious even without that unnecessary subplot.

b. Overall Lack of Character Development of the Two Main Protagonists

c. Slow Pacing in the First Half

d. The fact that I wanted to strangle Benedicte for not catching on that Marthe had obviously not estranged herself but that something bad had happened.

6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?

She tied both stories together rather well. Sabine was expertly used in connecting both stories. The only thing that threw me off when we had a couple consecutive chapters from Eve's perspective.

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?

Eve was the reliable narrator. Benedicte, not so much. Benedicte is obviously a ghost in the epilogue, watching Eve, Dom, and their new baby in her home. Benedicte also suffered from that illness which gave her hallucinations.

Other Thoughts

This book was hard for me to get into, but I was so relieved that the pacing picked up in the last half. For all the problems I had with it, it was a solid piece of work. I enjoyed the mystery overall, and would give it 3 out of 5 stars.

My favorite quote from the book:

"We all tell stories about ourselves, some repeated so often that we can honestly believe them to be the truth. Stories are our self-protective coating. Everyone has them, not only the people who have survived terrible families, though clearly they will have a larger canon than most."


  1. I hadn't seen the thing with Benedicte's baby coming either, but I fell for her when it turned out her lover was married.  Poor thing...

    I liked seeing Rachel's dark side.  Everyone seemed to think she was so perfect for the first half of the book, so it was nice to see that she wasn't as she seemed.

  2. That's true, I felt awful for Benedicte because of that. But I wish I liked her character more.

    And the whole twist with Rachel was quite unexpected. 


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