Overview

A debut novel about a family losing grip of its legacy: a majestic house on the cliffs of Ireland.

The Campbells have lived happily at Dulough--an idyllic, rambling estate isolated on the Irish seaside--for generations. But upkeep has drained the family coffers, and so John Campbell must be bold: to keep Dulough, he will open its doors to the public as a museum. He and his wife, daughter, and son will move from the luxury of the big house to ...
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Black Lake: A Novel

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Overview

A debut novel about a family losing grip of its legacy: a majestic house on the cliffs of Ireland.

The Campbells have lived happily at Dulough--an idyllic, rambling estate isolated on the Irish seaside--for generations. But upkeep has drained the family coffers, and so John Campbell must be bold: to keep Dulough, he will open its doors to the public as a museum. He and his wife, daughter, and son will move from the luxury of the big house to a dank, small caretaker's cottage. The upheaval strains the already tenuous threads that bind the family and, when a tragic accident befalls them, long-simmering resentments and unanswered yearnings surface.

As each character is given a turn to speak, their voices tell a complicated, fascinating story about what happens when the upstairs becomes the downstairs, and what legacy is left when family secrets are revealed.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 05/15/2014
John and Marianne Campbell live with their children, Kate and Philip, at Dulough, the Donegal estate named after nearby Black Lake. Because it was willed to John without the funds to maintain it, he brokers a deal with the government to renovate and open Dulough to the public, shunting his family to a small cottage on the grounds. These changes disrupt the Campbells' seemingly idyllic life. Does the move destabilize the family? Or does it simply reveal existing instabilities among them? Young Philip seeks escape from the turmoil around him by building a hut on an island in Black Lake, an ultimately tragic fancy that further undermines the entire family. VERDICT A contemporary writer of great promise whose book reads like a classic, debut novelist Lane skillfully demonstrates how grief both erodes and reinforces the bonds of a family. Her subtle, crystalline style calls to mind the prose of Colm Tóibín; her narrative pacing is reminiscent of Kate Chopin's. [See Prepub Alert, 11/3/13.]—John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman
Publishers Weekly
03/03/2014
Dulough, an imposing castle, stands by the sea in the far northern reaches of Ireland, where it has been inhabited by the Campbells since its completion in 1857. Lane’s haunting debut novel is a character study of the mansion and the last generation of Campbells to call it home. Dulough is isolated even from the nearby town of Donegal, yet the estate, with its steep cliffs and howling winds, has a magnetic pull, changing the lives of everyone who lives there. Upkeep on the castle is expensive, and without new money coming in, John Campbell must turn it over to be run as a museum. He, his wife Marianne, and their children move into a cottage on the grounds and watch as old furniture is removed from the main building and tourists view the family’s former rooms from behind velvet ropes. Finding themselves unmoored, the family questions the meaning of home and who they are without Dulough. When tragedy strikes, the family is forced to redefine themselves yet again. New fears and old doubts are catalogued as each character delves into the move from the castle to the cottage. Dulough’s mysterious history is woven into the narrative, with lush descriptions of its interiors and persona. The characters, unfortunately, only hint at complexity, but perhaps that is the point: the protagonist of this book is Dulough itself, and John and his family are just one generation to pass through. Despite its uneven flow, Lane’s story glows with quiet grief. This is a solid debut novel about what happens when a family whose identity is deeply rooted in their home is forced to move. (May)
From the Publisher
"In BLACK LAKE Johanna Lane accomplishes the nearly miraculous: she paints the world of her story with such care and skill that, before you know it, it will feel more real than your own. And you won't want to leave it. In Lane's hands the smallest details bloom with meaning, the quietest moments resonate with the power of truth. They make this novel big. It takes on the largest of themes, the thunder-clap moments of life, wresting from them a wisdom rare in any writing, and simply remarkable in a debut. Bit by gentle bit, this beautiful book will break your heart."—Josh Weil, author of The Great Glass Sea

"I cannot tell you how moved I was by BLACK LAKE.. I turned the pages with such ease! It was so beautifully written. Again and again I was caught up by the precise but unpretentious prose. I believed this story because of the voice, the voices, the details, the familiar yet strange things of these people's lives ...Lane conveys without any mawkishness the loss of this lovely place in the lives of this family, and the loss in all our lives of a childhood place wherever and whatever it was..."—Shelia Kohler, author of Becoming Jane Eyre


"Johanna Lane's lovely novel is jeweled with shrewd insights into childhood and the way people relate to habitation and place. It's a book to admire and immerse yourself in."—Amit Chaudhuri, author of The Immortals

In this beautiful portrait of a family faced with unbearable loss, Lane reveals, not only what slips between the cracks in everyday communication, but also the secret loves and longings we all harbor, even if we never allow our hearts to speak, or our minds to dwell upon, what we need to say and hear, in order to continue as whole and undamaged spirits...a very, very good novel."—John Burnside, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize

"A lush, beguiling beauty, like the Ireland of its setting. Novels like this one don't get written very often; when they do we remember why we love novels in the first place."—Elisa Albert, author of The Book of Dahlia

"Black Lake is my favorite sort of book, a gripping story and a precise, insightful study of the inner lives and also daily lives of people to whom life has done its often brutal work. The setting, the circumstances, are odd and memorable. The emotions are recognizable, but no less memorable. Black Lake, quiet, deceptively simple, and deeply moving, will stay with me over time."—Robin Black, author of Life Drawing

"A contemporary writer of great promise whose book reads like a classic, debut novelist Lane skillfully demonstrates how grief both erodes and reinforces the bonds of a family. Her subtle, crystalline style calls to mind the prose of Colm Tóibín; her narrative pacing is reminiscent of Kate Chopin's."—Library Journal (starred review)

"Sparkling... Lane describes the Campbells' world with such simple, intense prose that the reader feels the claustrophobia of the small cottage, the wonder of the sea, the rate and tension that permeates the home."—Bustle

—Josh Weil
"In BLACK LAKE Johanna Lane accomplishes the nearly miraculous: she paints the world of her story with such care and skill that, before you know it, it will feel more real than your own. And you won't want to leave it. In Lane's hands the smallest details bloom with meaning, the quietest moments resonate with the power of truth. They make this novel big. It takes on the largest of themes, the thunder-clap moments of life, wresting from them a wisdom rare in any writing, and simply remarkable in a debut. Bit by gentle bit, this beautiful book will break your heart."
—Shelia Kohler
"I cannot tell you how moved I was by BLACK LAKE.. I turned the pages with such ease! It was so beautifully written. Again and again I was caught up by the precise but unpretentious prose. I believed this story because of the voice, the voices, the details, the familiar yet strange things of these people's lives ...Lane conveys without any mawkishness the loss of this lovely place in the lives of this family, and the loss in all our lives of a childhood place wherever and whatever it was..."
—Amit Chaudhuri
"Johanna Lane's lovely novel is jeweled with shrewd insights into childhood and the way people relate to habitation and place. It's a book to admire and immerse yourself in."
—John Burnside
In this beautiful portrait of a family faced with unbearable loss, Lane reveals, not only what slips between the cracks in everyday communication, but also the secret loves and longings we all harbor, even if we never allow our hearts to speak, or our minds to dwell upon, what we need to say and hear, in order to continue as whole and undamaged spirits...a very, very good novel."
—Elisa Albert
"A lush, beguiling beauty, like the Ireland of its setting. Novels like this one don't get written very often; when they do we remember why we love novels in the first place."
--Josh Weil
"In BLACK LAKE Johanna Lane accomplishes the nearly miraculous: she paints the world of her story with such care and skill that, before you know it, it will feel more real than your own. And you won't want to leave it. In Lane's hands the smallest details bloom with meaning, the quietest moments resonate with the power of truth. They make this novel big. It takes on the largest of themes, the thunder-clap moments of life, wresting from them a wisdom rare in any writing, and simply remarkable in a debut. Bit by gentle bit, this beautiful book will break your heart."
--Shelia Kohler
"I cannot tell you how moved I was by BLACK LAKE.. I turned the pages with such ease! It was so beautifully written. Again and again I was caught up by the precise but unpretentious prose. I believed this story because of the voice, the voices, the details, the familiar yet strange things of these people's lives ...Lane conveys without any mawkishness the loss of this lovely place in the lives of this family, and the loss in all our lives of a childhood place wherever and whatever it was..."
--Amit Chaudhuri
"Johanna Lane's lovely novel is jeweled with shrewd insights into childhood and the way people relate to habitation and place. It's a book to admire and immerse yourself in."
--John Burnside
In this beautiful portrait of a family faced with unbearable loss, Lane reveals, not only what slips between the cracks in everyday communication, but also the secret loves and longings we all harbor, even if we never allow our hearts to speak, or our minds to dwell upon, what we need to say and hear, in order to continue as whole and undamaged spirits...a very, very good novel."
--Elisa Albert
"A lush, beguiling beauty, like the Ireland of its setting. Novels like this one don't get written very often; when they do we remember why we love novels in the first place."
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-29
Financial threats to a family estate in the Irish countryside abruptly leave a man and woman empty nesters without their nest. Pretty much the entire plot of this debut novel reveals itself in the opening chapter. A mother and daughter have locked themselves into an unused ballroom in the family manor after the mother, who "had grown strange," had yanked the daughter out of the boarding school she had just begun attending. The father tries to get them to open the door, but they ignore him. The daughter's younger brother has died. The rest of the novel fills in the details—names, motivations, how the past has led to the present—in a manner that plays hopscotch with chronology and point of view. More than half the novel after that scene-setting intro finds chapters alternating between the perspectives (but not the voices) of father John and son Philip as the family prepares to turn its house over to the government as a tourist attraction and move to a small cottage on the grounds. John has apparently been keeping the family's perilous financial condition (as well as a more lucrative option) a secret from his wife. Eight-year-old Philip wonders where he will play, and he hates the thought of other children touring what was his bedroom (where he will no longer be allowed). John's chapters provide some context on the family history and that of the estate, how history seems to both repeat itself and break from the past. Then comes another long section narrated in the first person by mother Marianne, who remembers her courtship with John and her introduction to the countryside. Then a quick concluding chapter returns the novel full circle without really providing resolution. As John muses, "there had to be unsaid things between husbands and wives, and he had learnt that, though these were the things that saved you, they separated you too." Lots of symbolic portent—the past, the sea, the family—and an overcomplicated narrative structure attempt to turn an elemental melodrama into a novel with more literary weight.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316228824
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 5/20/2014
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 148,776
  • File size: 339 KB

Meet the Author

Johanna Lane was brought up in Ireland, studied English Literature at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and Creative Writing at Columbia's MFA program. She lives in New York City.
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