Also by this author: The Distant Hours, The Forgotten Garden, The Secret Keeper, The Clockmaker's Daughter
Published by Atria Books on October 20, 2015
Genres/Lists: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
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For years, Kate Morton has been one author whose books I know I can count on. She has mastered the dual narrative and her visual descriptions of sweeping landscapes and old estates are phenomenal. The Lake House holds true to these features but the writing was a bit different than usual and I must admit, this wasn’t my favorite of hers.
The Lake House is the story of a little boy’s disappearance told through the perspectives of two people: Alice and Sadie. Alice grew up in the early 1900’s in a house named Loeanneth, which sat on a sprawling estate filled gardens, wooded areas, and, of course, a lake. Hers was an idyllic life, with days spent writing stories, playing with her siblings, and knowing that her parents’ relationship was the stuff of great love stories. In other words, she grew up confident in the love and security provided by her family. That is until a summer celebration in 1933, when her youngest sibling and only brother, Theo, vanished from the family estate. The case was never solved and the family was devastated, but it was Alice who spent the next 70 years harboring a secret about that night.
Fast forward to 2003 and we have Sadie Sparrow, a detective described as someone who “dealt in facts, not feelings” (a motto I, too, subscribe to). Visiting family in Cornwall, she soon comes across the abandoned Loenneth. Curious by nature, it doesn’t take long before she learns about Theo’s disappearance and decides she will be the one to solve it. Sadie is fighting her own inner demons and so the “investigation” comes at the perfect time.
Although the book started out slowly, it soon picked up pace and I was just as curious as Sadie was to find out what happened to Theo. Was he kidnapped? Murdered? Did he run away? Morton drops little hints along the way that the more perceptive readers will pick up, but with each new piece of information, a new question arises. Of course, devastating events leave a mark long after they occurred, and so a good portion of the story is about the transformation of the relationships, security, and trust of those who bore witness.'There was much solace to be gained from the permanence of nature.' - Kate Morton, The Lake House Click To Tweet
As promising as The Lake House was, it ended up falling a bit flat for me. It started out slowly but soon picked up the pace and I raced through the middle section. But then everything changed. By the end of the book, I was rolling my eyes. The last few chapters felt very rushed, as if the entire story needed to be wrapped up in as few words as possible and those lost words were the important ones. There were a few characters that were fleshed out early on and just disappeared, while others were underdeveloped. I can’t imagine that this was done on purpose because she’s usually so great at weaving everything together, but the last few chapters just didn’t fit.
The speculative part of me is wondering whether this is because she flexed her writing muscles by venturing into a more traditional style of mystery writing with The Lake House. Her books are generally ones that I can languish in; they are rich with detail, well developed characters, and a slow unravelling of the facts. This one is a whodunnit featuring a tenacious detective with an overwhelming ending. While I’m not opposed to the concept of mixing the two styles, I did not enjoy its implementation and was left disappointed.
That said, the book does follow Morton’s formula, and I enjoyed that part of the experience. Her books feature dual narratives, a mystery from the past, a curious person in the present who seeks out the answers, and a setting that serves as an anchor for the rest. The stories are never as distinctly different as you might expect and as the story progresses, the dual narratives are tied more and more neatly together. Most of the book was fairly enjoyable and while the ending wasn’t for me, that doesn’t mean it won’t be for you.
So who should read this book? If you’re already a Kate Morton fan, you’ll enjoy those aspects of the book but if you’re a first-timer, skip this one and pick up The Forgotten Garden, instead.