Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

The Lantern

An evocative, deeply moving tale of
past and present make this story quite
wonderful and fascinating to read.

An appealing aspect of this book is
the wonderful setting in the Provence
area of France in which fascinating
descriptions are given of the surrounding
areas and villages. The beauty and the
timelessness of rural France. The spectacular
mountain scenery which is described vividly
and is often a back drop to some of the villages
enhancing the beauty of the settings.

At times the book seems to have an element
of the unexpected and mystical. For example,
the lantern which is seen at nights without
any obvious explanation and other seemingly
unexplained occurrences which give a fleetingly
haunting element of beauty to the story.

There are two stories which run parallel in the book,
the modern and a time in the not so distant past
of a few decades earlier at the farm house.

I found
this aspect of the story quite magical and entrancing
for the details of life in the rural village and at the
farm house in earlier years where life seemed more
simple. The stories surrounding Benedicte,
her mother, grand-mother, blind sister and brother
and neighbouring villagers were told with panache
and insight.
It was a wondrous and beautiful time
in France full of magic with the changing landscapes
and colours of the seasons, the beauty and serenity.

There were fetes and
festivals in the surrounding villages and Benedicte's
father made walnut wine at the farm house. At one time
the place had been a thriving, prospering community where
there was often ready assistance from the neighbours and villagers.

The lavender and perfumes of Provence play a significant role
in the story and the descriptions of the flowers and herbs
of the areas give beauty and a trace of the exotic to the novel.

The story of the blind girl is quite fascinating, who because of
her talent for scent which had been developed from a young age,
achieves success in Paris as a perfumier.

The modern aspect of the story is also quite compelling to read
of a romance. This story can be unsettling at times and there is also
mystery surrounding the tale. Shades of the film “Rebecca” come to
mind. The author has mentioned in her notes that she read Rebecca
by Daphne du Maurier before writing the novel.

I am reminded of another story where there were two parallel
stories of the past and the present. This was the wonderful book
of “The Aviary Gate” by Kate Whitaker.
The story of the past was a
beautiful love story where an English woman, Celia Lamprey,
had been captured at sea while on her way
to be married to an English merchant and was taken as a prisoner
to the Sultan's harem at the palace at Old Constantinople. The story was quite
There was also a modern story in the book where the heroine of earlier
times was the subject of a research by a modern scholar in Istanbul.
This aspect
of the story appealed for the wonderful descriptions
of the settings in modern day Turkey, the city of Istanbul and places out of the city which
were built close to the water and were serene and beautiful.