Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Emma's Guest Review: Kate Morton - The Lake House

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

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. 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 

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Fans of Kate Morton have been kept waiting for such a long time for this new book The Lake House but rest assured it was worth all our impatience. This book was a stunning tale with a mystery at its heart. One which I was very sorry to finish. Kate has a huge fan base all over the world and it's easy to see why. She has discovered the genre she likes to write in and boy does she excel and puts other authors who write in the same genre way out in the shade. In my eyes Kate has never written a bad book instead she just gets better and better with each release and goes from strength to strength. Her writing and storytelling ability sucks you right in from the get go and you are lost until the last word. I was worried this book wouldn't live up to my expectations as several of the books I had been waiting on by some authors this year were sadly lacking. But from chapter one my fears were allayed as this book is brilliant.

The story slips between 2003, the 1930's and to a brief time before World War One. We focus on three women Sadie Sparrow and Alice and Eleanor Edevane. Sadie is in the police force but is on an enforced sabbatical due to her actions on a missing woman and abandoned child case. She goes to Cornwall to stay with her grandfather and to take stock of her career and also her personal life as the past may just be coming back to make its presence felt. Whilst out running she stumbles across an abandoned house - one that time forgot. Everything is at it was over 70 years ago and the lake nearby with an island of ducks remains unspoilt. Soon the detective instinct in Sadie is aroused and she sets out on a journey to uncover why a family upped and left their house and just what happened to a little boy. I loved Sadie, she had problems of her own but you knew through working on this long time mystery it will help her come to terms with not only her own past but the recent events in her career which forced her away from a job she loves and thrives on.

We go back in time to hear from the mistress of the house Eleanor right back to before she was married and we follow her as she navigates her marriage to Anthony and how she rears her children - Deborah, Alice, Clemmie and Theo. I did question why there was so much detail into how Eleanor and Anthony met and the early years of her marriage and time spent at Loeanneth House but I really ought to learn not to as it does all fit into place. By far the most interesting character to me was Alice, I feared we wouldn't hear much from her only in the past but to my delight she was still alive in 2003. Living in London now a famous author working on her 50th crime novel, she has harboured a secret for over 70 years and when Sadie contacts her regarding the mystery Alice has to come to terms with the past. Her assistant Peter has his own small role to play and he does so admirably. Alice is a very closed person, set in her ways and everything is just so. But when we read of her childhood days in Cornwall it is a different woman we see one who totally changed due to the events on Midsummers Night so long ago. Slowly piece by piece the tangled web woven begins to unravel and the reader is taken on a journey full of secrets, lies and deception and I loved every terrific moment of it.

In the past some people have found Kate Morton's books to contain quite a lot of repetition and honestly with this one I did at the start. There was too much detail into Sadie's daily run in Cornwall with the dogs and I felt we heard too much about the lead up the Midsummers party from different viewpoints several times over. The story needed to move on and finally it did not at a rapid pace but enough that I was led up the garden path several times and this kept me enthralled right to the final word. The surprises and revelations just kept coming which re-enforced for me that the setting up in the beginning was in fact necessary. Scenes which seemed trivial or unimportant at the time and left me wondering were they really required were in fact essential to the overall plot and were well placed and vital. The repetition was needed to show how each character had a different slant on what happened and their opinions and feelings really did matter. 'So many pieces of the puzzle and everybody holding different fragments' eloquently sums up the various players in this gigantic jigsaw. The author slipped in numerous tantalising clues throughout and a chance remark or something described in past chapters comes into play when you least expect it which then makes you realise god I should have been a bit more clued in but realistically I was enjoying the story so much to use my brain to piece things together.

In the beginning we are given a picture of what we are led to believe is a normal everyday family living life in the 1930's. The shadow of Word War One slightly remains and the terror of World War Two was far into the future. You may say the Edevane family had it all a happy marriage, beautiful children and a stunning house in beautiful Cornwall. But did they really?  We are then told of an incident and presented with the facts a young boy disappeared from a Midsummers Party and despite extensive searching was never seen or heard from again. Missing presumed dead. So we the reader take it that is what happened but the facts we are first given are not always accurate and not everyone is accountable for their actions. Step back to dissect just really what is going and secrets and a deeper more complex story is revealed. One in which Sadie Sparrow does her best to uncover the truth as to what really did on that fateful night to young, sweet, innocent Theo Edevane all those years ago. Right up until the last 10% I was still guessing as to what actually happened and would a satisfacoty resolution be found.It's great to be kept on the edge of your seat constantly guessing as I had feared around the 50% mark everything was sorted. To be honest this happened several times Kate has a unique knack of literally saying right reader and Sadie this is what happened. We follow Sadie, she has all the evidence. We are lead up the path and then whoosh the whole thread comes crashing down and just like Sadie we are back to square one I compare to being lost in a maze just when you think you turn the corner and there is the end in sight you are once again met with another obstacle. Normally this would frustrate me no end in books but not here as Kate mislead me countless times but I was delighted because it prolonged a book which I didn't want to end. Ahhh as for that ending was it very clever or did it just come from left of centre? On reflection I suppose I was disappointed for a brief moment or two but then thought Kate Morton kudos to you had me fooled big time.

Normally I would race through a book like this devouring it in one or two sittings, historical fiction with the time slip element is my favourite genre but I didn't rush through The Lake House. Instead I savoured every word, description, setting, character and event. I knew if I galloped through this book after waiting so long for its release I would deeply regret it. Kate Morton has once again outdone herself. There are very few faults to be found with this book yet there were only one or two minor niggles. What really amazes me is that Kate was born in Australia and still lives there yet she evokes the setting of England and in this case Cornwall so vividly and realistically. I know she probably has undertaken many research trips but from her books you get the sense that she has lived in England all her life. The Lake House deserves to go straight to the top of the bestsellers list and stay there for many weeks as it was such a marvellous read that had me guessing literally right until the last few pages. In this day and age that is very hard to do but the author certainly puled it off. My only wish is that Kate doesn't keep her fans waiting quite so long for her next book.

Kate has written an accomplished, multi-layered novel. She weaves an incredible tale balancing all the elements just so - the historical genre, the time slip storyline, mystery, romance and highlighting the devotion and sacrifices people make in a marriage all in the name of love. I would love to see The Lake House turned into a mini-series. I feel a movie would ruin this book as often happens to some of our well loved novels which have been adapted for the big screen. Sunday night curled up in front of The Lake House would set me up nicely for the week ahead. Hopefully in the future my wish may come true. Meanwhile Kate Morton better be at a well advanced stage in the writing of her next book because I can not wait to once again loose myself in the fantastic writing that Kate has not once failed to deliver. I urge you to go out and buy The Lake House on release day you will not be disappointed, I wasn't and now this book without question is placed firmly in my top five of the year.

I'd like to thank Emma for this fantastic review of The Lake House which she received from the publisher via NetGalley.

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