The Lake House by Kate Morton
Publisher: Pan Books
Publication date: 19 May 2016
Genre: Historical fiction
Page count: 599 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review.
I always say that I love historical fiction, however I so rarely read for it. When my sister Julia and I started our podcast You’re Never Going to Read This, I knew I was going to be recommended a fair amount of historical fiction. The Lake House was indeed one of Julia’s pick for me, and I’m so glad I ended up reading it. This book has its ups and downs, however I thought it was one of the most beautifully atmospheric historical fiction books I’ve ever read.
A missing child.
June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. Alice Edevane, sixteen years old and a budding writer, is especially excited. Not only has she worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t have. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.
An abandoned house.
Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. She retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, Sadie stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.
An unsolved mystery.
Meanwhile, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape.
The Lake House is a complex novel that not only features multiple POV characters, but multiple timelines as well. Alice and Sadie can be described as our main characters, both in the past and present, and their stories really drive this book along. For my money, the historical timelines were some of the best historical fiction writing I’ve ever read. Morton has such a gift with recreating scenes from the past, particularly with capturing the atmosphere. I did find that while I liked the modern plotlines well enough, they were much less compelling to me than those set in the past. The modern setting felt like a device to drive the mystery along, and it really shows. I couldn’t wait to get back to the historical bits, regardless of when they were set.
In addition to writing beautiful historical scenes, Morton’s talent with creating fascinating female characters really shines through– this book really is all about the women. Alice, both in her youth and old age, is such a fantastic and fascinating woman. She grows and evolves so much over the course of the book and you get such a great sense of who she is as a character. Her mother Eleanor, however, was my favourite. Eleanor’s characterisation and story completely flips your expectations. We learn more about her past and her romance with Alice’s father, and in this way she becomes one of the most fascinating and sympathetic characters in the book. Her point of view was easily my favourite to read.
On the other side, Sadie was easily the least compelling to me. While I liked her well enough, her plot was the weakest and I found that I just wasn’t invested in her or her story. She served the purpose of opening the case of the missing Edevane child, and that was it. I wish there was a little more to her — she should have fit in perfectly with the strong and smart women in the book, but ended up being a bit forgettable.
Overall I really liked The Lake House, but there were parts of it that were much stronger than others. If you like historical fiction, you can’t go wrong with this book. I’m really looking forward to picking up more of Morton’s novels!
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