A modern gothic novel of love, secrets, and murder—set against the lush backdrop of ProvenceI am over a week late, but I wanted to catch-up on this book today. First of all, I have to say that I enjoyed this book. It might not have been the best Gothic novel I have ever read, but the author did a wonderful job. In retrospect, I think I would have appreciated it more if I sat down with it and read it straight through. The need to start and stop distracted me when I was really getting into the story. I still enjoyed it, though, and had lots of fun reading the other participants thoughts on the book. Then, Deborah Lawrenson added her two cents once we were finished and it is always fun to hear from an author!
Meeting Dom was the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom in Switzerland, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les GenÉvriers, an abandoned house set among the fragrant lavender fields of the South of France. Each enchanting day delivers happy discoveries: hidden chambers, secret vaults, a beautiful wrought-iron lantern. Deeply in love and surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive.
But with autumn’s arrival the days begin to cool, and so, too, does Dom. Though Eve knows he bears the emotional scars of a failed marriage—one he refuses to talk about—his silence arouses suspicion and uncertainty. The more reticent Dom is to explain, the more Eve becomes obsessed with finding answers—and with unraveling the mystery of his absent, beautiful ex-wife, Rachel.
Like its owner, Les GenÉvriers is also changing. Bright, warm rooms have turned cold and uninviting; shadows now fall unexpectedly; and Eve senses a presence moving through the garden. Is it a ghost from the past or a manifestation of her current troubles with Dom? Can she trust Dom, or could her life be in danger?
Eve does not know that Les GenÉvriers has been haunted before. BÉnÉdicte Lincel, the house’s former owner, thrived as a young girl within the rich elements of the landscape: the violets hidden in the woodland, the warm wind through the almond trees. She knew the bitter taste of heartbreak and tragedy—long-buried family secrets and evil deeds that, once unearthed, will hold shocking and unexpected consequences for Eve.
1. Now that it’s all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?
Having read Rebecca, I had a rough idea about what was going to happen in the end. I knew Rachel was dead, so it just came down to that being explained. Then there was the relationship between Eve/Dom to bring to a conclusion. They were having some problems and Eve was starting to think about leaving the relationship behind if she didn't receive some answers soon. That being said, I was surprised about exactly how Rachel died. I never thought about her having cancer and deciding to have assisted suicide in Switzerland. Once that is explained, though, it does give a bit more explanation for Dom. That was a very difficult position that he found himself in. I still really didn't like him, but I understand him better.
As to the book itself, it was not perfect, but it was not a bad book either. I found it readable, was interested in how everything played out, etc. I think my disappointment laid in the fact that the book was so influenced by other authors works. It sort of makes it hard for the author because Rebecca and Jane Eyre are such popular and well-read books. I am not sure she is entirely at their calibre, but it is hard to say entirely.
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?
Well, as I mention above, I was not a huge fan of Dom. He was untrustworthy, secretive, and a bit of a recluse. We obviously learn why some of this happens, but it is hard to like someone that keeps so many secrets from the woman he supposedly loves. If he was still dealing with his demons he could easily have waited for things to pass before starting a new relationship. It was obvious he wasn't ready at all. I think Lawrenson writes Dom really well, though.
As to Sabine, I have to admit she served a good purpose. I am not sure that Eve would have suspected Dom as much as she did without Sabine in the background. Plus, Sabine leads her to look into Rachel's research and we learn more about the other storyline. There were times where I wasn't entirely sure if she was a 'good' person or bad, but she added to the story.
Then there is Rachel. Eve was not as obsessed with Rachel as Mrs. DeWinter was with Rebecca. It seemed different anyway. She obviously battles with the ghost of Rachel to the point where Rachel is another character in the book even while being deceased. I think Rachel was actually rather interesting. She made things up and was a bit crazy, but the different is what makes characters interesting in books. She also made an interesting contrast to Eve's character.
Pierre was a scary character. In his youth he was doing such horrific things that you knew some would probably carry on into his adult years and likely get worse. I am of a couple minds when it comes to the death of Marthe and Annette. I don't think they both fell to their deaths, but it is possible that Marthe was coming to Annette's aid and she died. It just didn't seem to me like a good idea for Pierre to outright kill Marthe if he wanted to sell the house. Annette, though, he had no need to keep alive. And, it is still possible that he got into a rage and killed both of them.
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 think that Lawrenson did a very risky thing using such a famous novel as a blueprint for her novel. That being said, I think she actually did a really good job. I am a huge fan of Rebecca, so I am a bit biased in thinking that this book doesn't entirely live up to the awesomeness of that book, but Lawrenson's changes and additions made for a very readable story. I particularly enjoyed the alternate storyline that turned out to be a ghost story. I love ghost stories! Ultimately, I think it comes down to the fact that Lawrenson is a talented author in her own right and I think she can go far in the industry. I look forward to something new from her!
5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?
I love books that jump back and forth between times and characters, but publishers need to understand it needs to be clear what is happening. I think the biggest disadvantage to this book was that the narrators kept changing, but there was no clear indication of when that happened. It made me pause in my reading to get my head around who was talking and as a result it took me out of the story for a bit.
6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?
I really enjoyed the ending to this book. The Benedicte storyline was my favourite of the two, but it was fun to see how they were connected. I also love ghost stories! I think Lawrenson tied the two stories together in a creative way. It seemed like there was more to Benedicte than met the eye, but it wasn't entirely evident in the beginning just what was happening. I actually got the impression in the first of the book that she was living in the house at the same time as Dom and Eve, but then the book moved in a different direction and I thought I was wrong. I was happy to see I was actually right on track!
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?
I think ultimately it was a book of lies, but finely crafted ones. It is what made the book work, though. There were many suspicions, unanswered questions, and doubts. It made the story that much more interesting wondering what was happening all the time. I don't think the characters could have told the truth and had it work in the book. It worked best because you never really knew what was going on. It also meant you kept reading until the end to find out how it all played out. I think Lawrenson did a wonderful job with this idea!