The Lantern is the story of Eve, who is working as a translator in Geneva. She meets Dom, an older man who’s a musician, in a cafe. They fall into a whirlwind romance and when Dom asks Eve to come live with him in a hamlet called Le Genévriers in Provence, she can’t turn him down. Eve and Dom find more than they bargained for in the beautiful French countryside – Le Genévriers is an old house with a long history.
Intertwined with Eve’s first person narrative is a story told by Bénédictine, the only remaining member of the family that lived at Le Genévriers for generations. Bénédictine’s sister Marthe went blind as a child and developed a finely honed sense of smell, enabling her to become a talented perfumer. The lavender fields growing near the house are the inspiration for a multi-faceted perfume, and the theme of scent is intertwined throughout the novel.
When Eve and Dom meet she learns he was married, but Dom refuses to speak of his former wife Rachel. The more Eve tries to find Rachel, the more he pushes her away, and the more she wants to know. Eve meets a local woman who knew Rachel and plants a small seed of doubt that takes on a life of its own. Eve begins to question her relationship with Dom, wondering how well she really knows him and if moving to Le Genévriers was a mistake.
There are two mysteries that are woven into the stories told by Eve and Bénédictine revolving around Rachel and Marthe. The alternating narrative at times disrupts the flow of the story; this is a book that should be read in as few sittings as possible to prevent losing momentum. However both stories are gripping enough that I found myself reading just one more chapter so many times that I had read way more than another chapter. The stories finally do come together toward the end, but I found myself getting impatient, and then reminding myself to slow down and enjoy the writing, hoping my patience would be rewarded.
The Lantern is a beautifully written book that will entice your senses of smell and sight. It’s a wonderful way to wile away a summer afternoon.
Nancy likes her life in the suburbs but wouldn’t mind spending a summer in the South of France. She writes about her 2 boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.