Book review: The Lake House by Kate Morton

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 Permalink

I’ve long been breaking my own (somewhat irrational) reading rules when it comes to Kate Morton. Back when I didn’t read Australian authors, or books set in Australia I made an exception for her books… telling myself it was because they were usually (at least partially) set overseas. Similarly, I’ve enjoyed her books DESPITE my usual antipathy towards historical fiction. And again I’ve wondered if it’s because her books straddle contemporary and historical fiction—unfolding in multiple timeframes.

Or perhaps it’s just because she’s a fabulous storyteller.

I described her books to a friend recently. I explained they were all quite similar: sweeping tales crossing several time periods and involving family secrets—with an element of romance and a whisper of mystery.

My friend’s next question…. “Are they formulaic then?”

I pondered because—they kinda are—but in a way that’s become Morton’s signature style than anything too predictable.

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The blurb

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.

Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. Sadie retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, she 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.

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

My thoughts

There is no doubt that Morton writes beautifully. I’m not swept away by her prose as I am by the likes of Anita Brookner, Anna Smaill or Paulo Coelho (et al) however. Morton writes with her readers in mind.

Alice felt the nag of an unspecified regret and sighed deeply. She supposed it was being in love that made her feel this way, a sort of general pity for everyone that wasn’t her. p22

Her words and turns of phrases are lovely. But simple.

Talking to him is like writing in the sand or shouting into the wind. His nature is so elemental that I know I can tell him anything and it will go no further. p525

Morton’s biggest talent is that she is a masterful storyteller. She has the ability to lure readers into her world. She obviously feels great affection for her characters and we too cannot help but care deeply about them.

In The Lake House we meet the young and ‘old’ Alice and I love how Morton’s aged her in a way that she hasn’t lost her feistiness but has developed a sense of cynical pragmatism her young self was missing. And of course, we completely understand Sadie’s need to get to the bottom of the 70yr old mystery and her longing for a sense of closure she’s missing in her own life.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by one of the twists at the end. It was something which occurred to me earlier in the novel but I decided Morton wouldn’t make such a nonsensical leap. She did. And though it annoyed me, it worked nonetheless. And in her defence there’s a theme running through the novel about ‘coincidence’. Which this twist most certainly is.

The Lake House by Kate Morton is available via Allen & Unwin (in Australia) from 21 October 2015.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

26 Comments
  • Jess
    October 21, 2015

    Sounds like a great read. Being a good story teller is number one thing I appreciate in an author!

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2015

      Yes Jess and Kate Morton’s certainly been consistent across all of her novels!

  • Nise' (Under the Boardwalk)
    October 21, 2015

    Every one of her books has pulled me in and kept me until the very end. Glad you enjoyed this one. I am looking forward to it.

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2015

      Yes Nise’ she really has the ability to engage readers. I struggled to explain why but think it’s the plot… her stories really do pull you in.

  • Kathryn
    October 21, 2015

    I haven’t read her yet, but I feel a new book is about to hit my TBR shelf. Sheree at The Eclectic Reader loved this too. So book shopping in order soon as it hits our shelves, a few different covers for it I see. LOVE the one you singled out, hope that’s what in the shops!
    Funny I have a preference not to read books set in NZ! One book I absolutely hated that is romance and written by non NZer but living here. I hated the first one but I see heaps of stars for all her books! I also find books set in Ireland a little off putting too, maybe because of my own experience in Ireland!

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2015

      Kathryn, it’s only been in the last couple of years I’ve started to read books set here or by Aussie authors. I eventually decided it was because I read to ‘escape’ and reading about my own backyard was a tad too prosaic.

  • Makeesha Byl
    October 21, 2015

    Thanks Deb for your review! I have been waiting very patiently for this release and can’t wait to get my hands on it. I have loved all her other books, even though they are rather slow at times.

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2015

      Yes they can be a little slow Makeesha… I guess there’s often a lot of scene-setting before we get to the ‘event’ from the past from which the rest of the story essentially flows.

      I’m sure you’ll love this one as much as her others.

  • Michelle Weaver (@pinkypoinker)
    October 21, 2015

    I love books about secrets especially those with a twist. It sounds interesting enough. I have to get my husband to download as many books as I can afford onto my Kindle before he moves down to his new job so I won’t be bored and I’ll add this to my list. I read an interview with Kate Morton and she did talk about how close she gets to her characters. Obviously it shows in her writing. Thanks for the heads up Deb.

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2015

      I heard Kate speak years ago Michelle and decided I had little choice but to hate her as she had the life I wanted.

      Not only was she beautiful and talented, but she had a husband and child and was very successful. Plus she seemed nice. Then and there (in some Irish Club in Brisbane!) I decided if I couldn’t BE her I’d HAVE to hate her. #orsomething 🙂

  • Rita @ View From My Home
    October 22, 2015

    I’m in! Thanks for taking another chance on a story that’s part historical fiction even though you don’t prefer them. Some books defy genre classification, after all.

  • Janet Camilleri (@middleagedmama1)
    October 22, 2015

    Love Kate Morton’s books, can’t wait to read this one 🙂

  • Emma
    October 23, 2015

    I have this on my list to read. I like the sound of it though like you I’m not a fan of historical fiction – I don’t mind when it flashes back and forth though.

    • Debbish
      October 23, 2015

      Yes I agree Emma – and I don’t know what it is about the ‘now’ that makes the past more tolerable! 😉

  • Book Birdy
    October 25, 2015

    Hmmm… I’m in two minds. Like you, Deb, I have a bit of hist-fic-phobia (I have been proven wrong a few times this year, though) but you can’t deny the sales numbers that Kate Morton has achieved worldwide. She truly is a global ‘star’ of the literary world and I feel I’m missing out if I don’t at least give it a shot. I think your review might also have made up my mind to give it a go. Thanks Deb. Cassie

    • Debbish
      October 25, 2015

      Definitely try her Cassie. Her books have been hugely popular so she’s obviously doing something right.

  • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
    October 26, 2015

    My mother has been urging me to read Kate Morton. I think after I make my way through the available Susanna Kearsley books, I’ll give her a try. Lovely review – insightful, personal, and compelling!

    • Debbish
      October 26, 2015

      Thanks so much and I really do adore her books but find it very hard to explain why! Just something about her storytelling…

  • jsamuelsen
    October 26, 2015

    This book looks really good. Thanks for the review.

    • Debbish
      October 26, 2015

      No worries. I hope you get a chance to read it, or others by Morton.

      Deb

  • RAnn
    October 26, 2015

    Definitely sounds like one for the TBR stack

  • Teddyree
    October 26, 2015

    I love Kate Morton, talented and lovely, it’s really too much lol. A friend said The Forgotten Garden bored her to tears but I adored it and everything since. I don’t know, there’s just something so addictive about her stories, her writing.

    • Debbish
      October 26, 2015

      I know! Her stories just reel you in and before you know it you’re THERE.

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