The Washington Post
The Lanternby Deborah Lawrenson
Set in the lush countryside of Provence, Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern is an atmospheric modern gothic tale of love, suspicion, and murder, in the tradition of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Drawn to a wealthy older man, Eve embarks on a whirlwind romance that soon offers a new life and a new home—Les Genévriers, a charming/em>/em>… See more details below
Set in the lush countryside of Provence, Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern is an atmospheric modern gothic tale of love, suspicion, and murder, in the tradition of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Drawn to a wealthy older man, Eve embarks on a whirlwind romance that soon offers a new life and a new home—Les Genévriers, a charming hamlet amid the fragrant lavender fields of Provence. But Eve finds it impossible to ignore the mysteries that haunt both her lover and the run-down old house. The more reluctant Dom is to tell her about his past, the more she is drawn to it—and to the mysterious disappearance of his beautiful ex-wife. An evocative tale of romantic and psychological suspense, The Lantern masterfully melds past and present, secrets and lies, appearances and disappearances—along with our age-old fear of the dark.
The Washington Post
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Read an Excerpt
The LanternA Novel
By Deborah Lawrenson
HarperCopyright © 2011 Deborah Lawrenson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe rocks glow red above the sea, embers of the day's heat below
our balcony at the Hôtel Marie.
Down here, on the southern rim of the country, out of the mistral's
slipstream, the evening drops as viscous liquid: slow and heavy
and silent. When we first arrived, the stifling sultriness made sleep
impossible; night closed in like the lid of a tomb.
Now, in the few hours I do sleep, I dream of all we have left behind:
the hamlet on the hill and the whispering trees. Then, with a start, I'm
awake again, remembering.
Until it happens to you, you don't know how it will feel to stay with
a man who has done a terrible thing. Not to know whether the worst
has happened or is yet to come; wanting so badly to trust him now.
We cannot leave France, so, for want of anywhere better to go, we are
still here. When we first settled in, it was the height of summer. In
shimmering light, sleek white yachts etched diamond patterned
wakes on the inky blue playground and oiled bodies roasted on honey
gold sand. Jazz festivals wailed and syncopated along the coastline.
For us, days passed numberless and unnamed.
As the seasonal sybarites have drifted away to the next event, to
a more fashionable spot for September, or back to the daily work that
made these sunny weeks possible, we have stayed on. At this once
proud Belle Époque villa built on a rocky outcrop around the headland
from the bay of Cassis, we have found a short-term compromise. Mme.
Jozan has stopped asking whether we intend to stay a week longer in
her faded pension. The fact is, we are. No doubt she will tell us, in her
pragmatic way, when our presence is no longer acceptable.
We eat dinner at a café on the beach. How much longer it will be
open is anyone's guess. For the past few nights, we've been the only
We hardly speak as we drink some wine and pick at olives.
Dialogue is largely superfluous beyond courteous replies to the waiter.
Dom does try. "Did you walk today?"
"I always walk."
"Where did you go?"
"Up into the hills."
I walk in the mornings, though sometimes I don't return until
We go to bed early, and then on to places in our dreams: places that
are not as they really are. This morning, in the shallows of
semi-consciousness, I was in a domed greenhouse, a ghost of itself: glass
clouded with age; other panes shattered, glinting and ready to fall;
ironwork twisted and corrupt with rust. No such edifice exists at Les
Genévriers, but that was where I was.
In my dream, glass creaked audibly above my head as I stood
mending bent iron shelves, frustration mounting as I failed repeatedly
to straighten the corroded metal. Through broken glass, the
pleated hills were there, always in the background, just as in life.
By day, I try not to think of the house and the garden and the hillside
we have left behind, which ensures, of course, that my brain must
deal with the thoughts in underhanded ways. Trying is not necessarily
succeeding, either. Some days I can think of nothing else but what we
have lost. It might as well be in a different country, not a few hours'
drive to the north of where we are now.
Les Genévriers. The name of the property is misleading, for there is
only one low-spreading juniper, hardly noble enough to warrant such
recognition. There is probably a story behind that, too. There are so
many stories about the place.
Up in the village, a wooded ten-minute climb up the hill, the
inhabitants all have tales about Les Genévriers: in the post office, the bar,
the café, the community hall. The susurration in the trees on its land
was their childhood music, a magical rustling that seemed to cool the
hottest afternoon. The cellar had once been renowned for its vin de noix,
a sweet walnut liqueur. Then it was shut up for years, slumbering like
a fairy castle on the hillside, and prey to forbidden explorations while
legal arguments raged over ownership in a notaries' office in Avignon.
Local buyers shied away, while foreign bidders came, saw, and went.
It is more than a house; it is a three-story farmhouse with a small
attached barn in an enclosed courtyard, a line of workers' cottages, a
small stone guesthouse standing alone across the path, and various
small outbuildings: it is officially designated as un hameau, a hamlet.
"It has a very special atmosphere," the agent said that morning in
May when we saw it for the first time.
Rosemary hedges were pin-bright with pungent flowers. Beyond,
a promenade of cypresses, prelude to a field of lavender. And, rising
at the end of every view, the dominant theme: the creased blue hills of
the Grand Luberon.
"There are springs on the land."
That made sense. Three great plane trees grew close to the gate
of the main house, testament to unseen water; they would not have
grown so tall, so strong, without it.
Dom caught my hand.
We were both imagining the same scenes, in which our dream life
together would evolve on the gravel paths leading under shady oak,
pine, and fig trees, between topiary and low stone walls marking the
shady spots with views down the wide valley, or up to the hilltop
village crowned with its medieval castle. Tables and chairs where we
would read or sip a cold drink, or offer each other fragments of our
former lives while sinking into a state of complete contentment.
"What do you think?" asked the agent.
Dom eyed me complicitly.
"I'm not sure," he lied.
Excerpted from The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson Copyright © 2011 by Deborah Lawrenson. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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