The Lantern Read-Along: Part V

Ehhhhh, I probably should have just kept reading last week like I meant to. This last part just doesn’t have the same momentum as the rest, and while sheer interest in the story kept me going, it was not nearly as exciting as the previous sections. But hey, let’s talk about that, shall we?

1. Now that it’s all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming? Um, well. Let’s see. I called the dead bodies, I did not call Dom’s secret, I called Sabine’s over-interest if not the reason for it, and I did not manage to call Rachel’s pathological lying though in retrospect it seems pretty obvious, I definitely did not call Bénédicte’s recordings, I totally called the ghost. So, overall… no, I did not see the ending coming! I am actually fairly disappointed in the ending for being essentially a giant info-dump when Lawrenson did such a good job of weaving in details throughout the story — I would have been content to have fewer answers, better written, I think.

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 can understand much better now why Dom was insistent on not sharing his deep dark secret and insistent that it had nothing to do with Our Narrator. I still don’t really agree with it, but I understand it. Sabine, I have no idea why she was keeping herself a secret, and so I continue to be very irked with her especially with the insinuations and all. Rachel, I am much more intrigued by — I really didn’t give much care to her throughout the book, but with the ending and all it might have been nice to see more of her in the story to take off some of that exposition in the end! Our Narrator, I’d like to see what happens to her the next time Dom tells a half-truth. I don’t think she’s as comfortable as she thinks she is.

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? Oh, he totally killed them. He lied about them leaving and blaming Bénédicte, and the fact that he knew he could go get Marthe’s stuff shows he knew she wasn’t coming back for it. And it really fits in with his completely insane character that he would rather torture Bénédicte for the rest of her life than get any money out of Les Genevriers.

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 swear I will get around to reading Rebecca. Someday.

5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times? No, I generally liked the format of the book and the way Lawrenson brought the two stories slowly together. I’m just still quite miffed about the ending. In looking back through the book to make sure I’m remembering things correctly to answer these questions, I happened upon this line again: “All of which goes to show how dangerous it is [. . .] to want tidy storytelling when real life is not like that.” And I just stared in the general direction of Lawrenson and thought, then why did you work so hard to answer all these darn questions?! Let me have some ambiguity, here. Though the more I think about the ending, the more I’m thinking that it’s not really Lawrenson making answers for everything, but instead Our Narrator trying to rationalize everything that she has done and that has happened to her. Oh, this book, it is giving me a headache but largely in a good way.

6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently? I do like the way the stories came together, and how Bénédicte’s narrative has this sort of extra layer to it, not just of Lawrenson placing it within Our Narrator’s narrative, but of Our Narrator placing it within her own narrative, and so suddenly all of those ghostly things that are happening to Our Narrator ring rather less true. [Insert thoughtful ooooooooooh here.]

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? Oh, I don’t trust any of them, which is really how it should be. I can’t find a specific reason to doubt Bénédicte’s story as told, but I still get the sense that she did a lot of lying to herself, at least, throughout her life. Our Narrator is more obviously doubt-able, with her constant reminders to herself that she’s getting a bit hysterical and her own omissions to the other characters. And if that’s what she’s willing to admit to, I mean, there’s probably more to it. And of course the other characters we only see through these two (possibly only through Our Narrator? What’s she leaving out of Bénédicte’s story?), so I declare them entirely unreliable!

So, true story, I’m way more excited about this book after going through and answering these questions. I stand by my statement about the momentum of this section, but I’m appreciating the results of this section rather more as I think about them. By the time I write up my regular review of this book, I may like the ending even more, but I make no promises! How about you guys?

8 thoughts on “The Lantern Read-Along: Part V

  1. Carl V. says:

    I sat down last Monday afternoon and read the final section of the book, and I did so simply because I had just finished reading the previous sections the night before and wanted to have that momentum that you refer to, and it worked much better that way.

    I didn't think the whole end was necessarily and info dump, but I do agree that there was too much of the “movie voice over” ending to the book in that Lawrenson really and truly did not need to explain everything. I would have liked the serial killer stories to have been left unresolved, as that would have left us wondering ever so slightly if maybe Dom wasn't all he seemed to be at the end, or maybe Pierre wasn't dead, or maybe someone else connected to the stories was doing it.

    I did like the medical explanation for Benedicte's hauntings in large part because I liked the irony of a scientific explanation for what was happening to her contrasted against the fact that after her death she herself is a ghost. Loved that.

    I do think a lot of how people read this book has to do with having an experience with Rebecca, and perhaps I am giving Lawrenson too much of the benefit of the doubt because of that. Sabine works for me because she is a Mrs. Danvers character. Dom works for me because he is Mr. DeWinter. I read more into their characters than Lawrenson gives us and so that may be more of a flaw than I can see because of my intimacy with du Maurier's story.

    And Rebecca is so worth reading, it is a marvelous, incredible book.

    Where I think The Lantern is successful is that it does create the kind of moody atmosphere that is so important to gothic novels and the characters fit that gothic mode. If a reader expects these characters to act more like modern characters because of the contemporary setting it just doesn't quite work, because to do gothic you have to be willing to allow characters to be somewhat melodramatic and overwrought. Again, just my opinion.

    It has been such a pleasure discussing this book with you. I actually got excited about the end all over again reading your comments, 🙂

  2. bookswithoutanypictures says:

    I was pretty happy with the ending, overall. As Carl said, the fact that Benedicte's ghosts were the result of a medical condition paired with her becoming a ghost herself was quite neat.

    Pierre was such a horrible person.

    I liked that the ending was relatively happy; too many of the books that I've read lately have had sad endings.

  3. Kate says:

    I was a bad reader and read the whole thing straight through, not stopping for the weekly question list, so I didn't outright notice the rapidity with which everything was solved at the end, but in retrospect it does seem a bit tidy and quick, doesn't it? I too was a little sorry at the whole possible serial killer part, which sounds odd. It never got a lot of time spent on it so I didn't feel particularly invested in it (I more or less thought it was a red herring as soon as it was thought possible that Dom might have had something to do with it), but that portion was rather unsatisfactorily dealt with imho.

  4. Carl V. says:

    You were just a 'normal reader'. 🙂 I'm surprised I managed to read it in the prescribed sections. Had I not been doing two other group reads that never would have happened.

  5. Alison says:

    Carl — I was just so worried that my exuberance over the middle parts would make it a worse letdown. Not sure if that would have been the case, now. And I'm feeling better about the explain-y parts now that I've rationalized them not as Lawrenson's explain-y parts but Eve's, which is more interesting. And your point about the gothic atmosphere is good, as I know I have disliked contemporary gothic books in the past. I think it just takes a bit of getting used to!

    Grace — I totally wish someone would go kick Pierre into a deep dark well. But I'm not sure I would classify that ending as happy… I think there's still too much mistrust of everyone. But I suppose it's not sad, either.

    Kate — I'm just so terrible at keeping book timelines straight in my head and I didn't want to spoil anything for the other read-along-ers accidentally! I didn't think too much of the serial killer plot either, though I wondered if said killer were related to any of our characters, so I wasn't too disappointed to get nothing out of it.

  6. Chelsea says:

    I also read the book straight through, and even doing that I felt like things wrapped up TOO well at the end. Not necessarily in an info-dump way as in the tidy-ending way. I'm with a lot of people, it seems, in wishing that Lawrenson had left us a little bit more mystery behind the whole darn story! I was also SUPER ticked that Benedicte's ghosts turned out to be because of blindness – I wanted real ghosts, and thought that would have bettered the book immensely.

    I almost wish that this book had been primarily Benedicte's story. Her history, her family, her scent descriptions and glimpses in to the past – these were all the things I loved about the book, and I mostly found Eve to be annoying and Dom to be a bit of a twit.

    I loved doing this read-a-long (my first!) and thought it was so fascinating to be able to gather so many diverse thoughts on the same book in to one place!

  7. Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick says:

    Great point about it feeling like a big info dump at the end. It did feel like that, or like the “movie voice over” that Carl mentioned in his comment above. It was disappointed, given such the woven and multi-layered mystery described.

  8. Alison says:

    Chelsea — I'm going to maintain that they were real ghosts just explained away by unbelieving scientists. Because that makes me happy. 🙂 And I totally agree that Bénédicte's story was fantastic, though I'm not sure it would have held up on its own… it would be interesting to see, though!

    Natalie — Yeah, sadly. But the rest of the book was so good, I'm going to allow it. 🙂

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