By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

The Lake House, by Kate Morton

JacketSometimes everything and the kitchen sink is just fine. Kate Morton throws practically every possible element of classic women’s fiction into her latest novel, The Lake House, and the result is a melancholy and bittersweet saga that spans generations and offers equal parts epic romance, harrowing whodunnit and hard-nosed police procedural. That’s an impressive number of genres for one book, folks.

At its center, The Lake House revolves around three women. Eleanor, a devoted wife and mother to a loving husband and a gaggle of free spirited children, works to protect and rear her family in post World War I England. Then there is Alice, the wildest and in many ways most brilliant of Eleanor’s children: she navigates the tragedy and heartbreak of adolescence and becomes a world-renowned mystery novelist. Lastly we have DC Sadie Sparrow, a top-notch metro detective who’s left a scandal behind in London to ride out the storm with her grandfather in Cornwall.

All three women have secrets they are convinced would destroy their loved ones and all three women are — as is often the case in novels like these — connected by more than just their inclination to play things close to the vest. When Eleanor’s only son, Theo, goes missing in the midst of a family celebration, his disappearance sets off a chain of events that spans years and will eventually draw both Alice and Sadie together to solve the mystery, once and for all.

What distinguishes this novel for me was Morton’s outstanding ability to wring honest emotion and believable actions from her characters. We come to know these women and the people they love intimately. The things they do, even the awful things, never feel forced or out of character. It’s true that there are plenty of the sort of “Lifetime” movie clandestine meetings and characters misconstruing things they witness, but the book never loses its essential thread of truth. I can suspend a lot of disbelief when I feel like I’m reading about real people.  A need to protect the ones they love drives each these women. For Eleanor this means hiding a terrible, tragic secret from her family. Alice chooses to close herself off from the world and live within her books. Sadie gives up the one thing she loves and devotes her life to saving others.

Kate Morton has a great gift for setting the scene. She describes the titular lake house in wonderful, vivid detail. The house becomes a character in its own right as it moves through the years, from its heyday as a beautiful and beloved home, to a sad, dust-cloaked relic later frozen in time and abandoned. Morton’s Cornwall countryside becomes a living, breathing thing, juxtaposed with a colder, darker London that almost seems to consume her characters.

Readers will find plenty of mystery and romance here to keep any fan of women’s fiction and historical mysteries happy.  Kate Morton’s excellent turn of phrase will satisfy those who prefer more substance with their soap operas. No plot lines are left dangling in the breeze and the resolutions, when they come, will leave you with that satisfied and warm feeling that follows any well-told tale.



Leave a Reply