Tag Archives: Gothic

Reading: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

24th January 2018

Mary Yellan is content with farm life up until the moment her mother dies, leaving her with a deathbed promise to sell the farm and seek out her Aunt Patience, a lively, pretty woman Mary recalls from a trip a decade earlier.

Though her aunt’s letter inviting her to come seems somewhat distant, Mary hopes for the best. Those hopes are dashed when the carriage driver warns her away from Jamaica Inn, an isolated, looming building on the English moors.

Arriving at Jamaica Inn does nothing to dispel Mary’s anxiety, as her boorish uncle, Joss Merlyn, offers none-too-pleasant a greeting, and Aunt Patience is a shell of the woman she was. Nervous and skittish, Aunt Patience tells Mary obvious lies before Uncle Joss comes in and tells Mary exactly what he expects: once in a while she’ll serve drinks in the attached bar, and if she hears a carriage outside, she must hide herself under her covers and put her fingers in her ears.

Undeterred, Mary makes the best of her situation, finding the moors bewitching, yet recognizing the hidden dangers they offer. She meets two men on the moors, the vicar from the next town, and Jem, her uncle’s brother. One an angel, the other a demon, Mary finds herself drawn to both as potential saviors from the deteriorating circumstances in which she finds herself.

Atmospheric and suspenseful, Jamaica Inn is a perfect tale for a wintry day, though I prefer Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. Daphne du Maurier knows how to create a setting, and the horror of certain events in the novel cannot be overstated; yet, the pacing and intended twist were not as impactful to me as I suspect they were meant to be. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Jamaica Inn and enjoyed adding another du Maurier to my shelves.

*Don’t take my word for it. See what others had to say about Jamaica Inn on Goodreads.

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

13th March 2012

*I received this book from the publisher (Harper) via TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Some scents sparkle and then quickly disappear, like the effervescence of citrus zest or a bright note of mint. Some are strange siren songs of rarer origin that call from violets hidden in woodland, or irises after spring rain. Some scents release a rush of half-forgotten memories. And then there are the scents that seem to express truths about people and places that you have never forgotten: the scents that make time stand still.

How can I be frightened of a scent?

Thus begins Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern, a story of a place: Les Genévries, a stone farmhouse in the south of France and once the home of Bénédicte and her family and where, many years later, Eve and Dom retire after meeting one another in Switzerland and falling in love. Eve doesn’t know much about Dom except that he loves her and that he was once married, but the marriage is off limits for discussion. The couple enjoy the solace of the farmhouse, though more than once lights mysteriously turn on or off, and Eve finds a lit lantern in one of the pathways that neither she nor Dom have lit. Les Genévries once housed families, but now the couple roams its hallways in silence, increasingly withdrawing from one another as Dom’s secrets hang in the air between them like the scents that mysteriously waft through the windows. Bénédicte, in alternating chapters, gives the history of Les Genévries, and she has secrets of her own – a violent brother, a blind sister who asks Bénédicte to be her eyes as she uses her enhanced power of scent to create perfume. As Bénédicte and Eve get closer to uncovering the past, each woman also comes ever nearer uncovering the secrets of Les Genévries.

It is the place in this novel that is so enigmatic and elusive. Crumbling walls and uneven floors, the home itself has secrets: floorboards that lift and reveal hidden holes, irremovable stains, doors that lead nowhere. The two women feel this about the house but are wary of laying those secrets bare. The Lantern is essentially a mystery, but it’s also a Gothic tale, dark and evocative.

I wanted to love this book, and had I never read Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, I may have. If you’ve read that novel, you know that what Du Maurier excels at is creating a Gothic setting and increasing the suspense notch by notch before revealing the awful truth of Rebecca. However, if you already know the culmination of that story, The Lantern will feel very much like a cheap knockoff; it looks similar, but it’s not quite as good. This isn’t to say that Deborah Lawrenson isn’t a talented author, she is; however, Du Maurier’s masterpiece works because of the writing and the story itself. The Lantern fails at introducing anything new or noteworthy in terms of Dom and Eve’s plot.

Bénédicte’s story is, to me, much more interesting. Yet Bénédicte often felt like an afterthought, a side act to the main plot. Her sister, Marthe, becomes one of the most well-known creators of perfume in France, but she started out humbly, working in fields of lavender, sent away to learn a trade in which she could excel in her blindness. Bénédicte is elderly when she begins to tell her story out of guilt and fear from an incident in her youth, prompted by apparitions of her family members when they are young. Though fearful, she lives alongside these ghosts, trying to discover why her sister cut off all communications after a violent argument with her brother and why they have chosen now to come back and haunt her.

Verdict: The Lantern is atmospheric and addictive, but if you’ve already read Rebecca, this may not be your favorite. If you haven’t read Rebecca, definitely give this one a try.

Buy this from Indiebound or for your Nook. Visit Deborah at her website, blog, or Facebook.

 

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

23rd February 2012

*I bought this book and placed it as decor on my nightstand…where it remained for almost two years.

When I first began blogging, a bunch of bloggers were salivating over this book. At the time, I thought you were all nutters and wondered why in the hell this book was suddenly getting so much attention. A couple of weeks ago, I found out when I read this sensation novel morning, noon, and night, barely leaving its pages to eat. The Woman in White is one of those books which the reading of I can only compare to having the flu. Palms are sweaty. Your limbs ache from staying in whatever reading position you choose for far too long. There is a distinct desire for someone other than yourself to do any cleaning/cooking/feeding. You do not leave your pajamas.

Why? I’m going to purposefully simplify this plot: Dude gets a job teaching art. Said dude runs into a woman in white the night before he leaves for his new post. Chick is kind of crazy and has escaped from an asylum. Art teacher is unsettled, but he’s off to his new post, which includes two young women, an older sister, Marian, and her half-sister, Laura…who looks exactly like the crazy chick. She’s supposed to marry a titled man about whom the family has received anonymous warnings. There are serious things a-happenin’, and art teacher gets out of the mix, leaving the sister and the family lawyer to tell the tale of what happens after Laura and the count say “I do.”

Sir Whatsit is a vile man, but his Italian buddy who comes to live with the couple is even more dastardly. There are big plans to get money from the new bride, and these men will stop at nothing, NOTHING, I tell you, to get their hands on that dough. And you thought the crazed woman in white was gone? Surprise. She’s back. And it’s spooky. Plus, art teacher who’s in love with the blond, slim Laura (of course) is back to lay claim on his lovey-dovey. Bad guys get told. There’s a happy ever after.

Lessons learned: Men are evil. Men without money are evil-er.

Another lesson learned: Ugly women are smart. Mostly. Except when they’re busy being weak. Pretty women are always weak.

This novel is Gothic and sensational and fun and long and suspenseful, and ultimately, I loved it.

For a free egalley of this, go to Project Gutenberg. If you want to know the ins and outs before you read and don’t want my ridiculously-simplified plot, go here:

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