The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson.
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 enhances the beauty of the settings.
At times the book seems to have an element of the unexpected and mystical. 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 and which is the story 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 Katie Hickman. 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 powerful. 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 was appealing and quite fascinating 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.