Kate Morton. THE LAKE HOUSE. Washington Square, 2015.
Hawthorne Book Club selection for February, 2020. A great puzzle story, with dual (or several) time settings, and too many POVs to count.
Some hints about the meaning of coincidence in our lives and in plots.
Sadie Sparrow is a London cop, taking a leave after getting a bit too involved in the disappearance of a young mother. Visiting her grandfather in Cornwall, she uncovers a 70-year-old cold case, a missing child from a now-abandoned estate.
Update: February 14, 2020
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Susan: was travelling
Mike: was unable to attend
Garth: “I really couldn't get into that book, so I'll miss this meeting. Maybe next time. Cheers.”
Lois: “I have been under the weather and am not up to discussing The Lake House. I did finish it but did not enjoy it. It was too long and I did not relate to any of the characters. The plot was very clever, maybe too much so for me.”
Ken: “I didn't dislike this book. I gave it only 6.5 though as it went on far too long—well the book didn't but the author did. She described Everything in detail. At the dilapidated house that was ready to fall down, she wondered if anyone was home. The place could have more ghosts than anything but when she stands on a planter and peers in the window all she does is describe the bloody vase. Really!
“There were many tangled webs of plots galore and it did come together but it almost seemed too neat to be true. And by the time I got there I didn't much care how it ended as long as it did.
“The writing was mediocre. I don't think an excellent writer would say: A fallen log came at her from nowhere ... Adrenaline spread beneath her skin like hot syrup.
“Kate Morton appears to be in love with her own voice and will go to great lengths to show it. (pun intended) She said many things more than once as if she thought the reader didn't get it the first time. Maybe I should take another fourteen pages and explain it again—for the slower ones.”
Pam: “I did enjoy reading Kate Morton's The Lake House. I had heard of this author but had not read any of her books as of yet. Her writing style reminds me of a flowing river which picks up and transports various bits of things along the way. I'd be reading along in the book and then stop all of a sudden because of some minute yet vitally significant detail subtly appearing within a paragraph. Very neat technique! I think the author's character development is absolutely key to the advancement of plot and action, and it is this aspect which engages the reader and continually precipitates a careful reading of the text.
“The power and place of nature is a strong theme throughout the book, as indicated as early as page 2: ‘Her father had told her once that generations had walked these woods and been buried deep beneath the heavy earth. It made him glad, she knew, to think of it that way. He found comfort in the continuity of nature, believing that the stability of the long past had the power to alleviate present trouble.’
“Personally I connect with nature themes and I am attuned to taking note of such, seems to be, in whatever I may be doing.
“I look forward to the next reading selection and meeting all at the Hawthorne Book Club.”
Elsie: “I had a hard time getting into the book until the main action started. I think Morton should have pared down the text a bit to keep it moving. Once all the characters had clear functions in the plot, the story was more engaging, but the prose needed to be tightened up a bit; I found myself skimming just to keep myself connected with the story. I like Pam’s “flowing river” analogy, though; that’s a great description of how all the story elements were redistributed among the various perspectives presented until the truth of the “kidnapping” was revealed. I liked the many references to nature and earth elements; they seemed to ground the house and the characters and their secrets to a common source. So many of the pivotal plot elements depended on them. I’d try another of Morton’s books, if just to find out if the writing was consistent.”
Joan: I would have abandoned this book in the first chapters, the overwrought teenage girl POV, if it had not been a book club selection. The Cornwall and London settings did appeal to me. And the idea of a haunted or grieving house. The plot did hook me once the cold case came into it—the unsolved disappearance of a child. And I liked the linked themes of mother/child relationships, over 5 generations. And the character-based “family secrets” which drive the plot, especially the “giving up a child” and the PTSD sub-plots. However, I agree totally with Lois—that it was too long and too clever for its own good. It reminded me of writing exercises on changing POV. I questioned the use of coincidence in resolving the plot (Bertie) but at the same time I believe that coincidence does often play a role in real life. I was hoping people might have examples to share, of coincidences, of family secrets.
Most of all I missed seeing everyone here to debate The Lake House. Next month. I’ll let you know …
I did discover that Kate Morton, born 1976 , is Australian, moved to England for post-secondary, did her MA on Thomas Hardy, is married with 3 sons, and this is her fifth New York Times best seller. Sigh.