RAD Book Club review: The Lake House

09 Nov 2016

For the first meeting of our new series of RAD Book Club, we read The Lake House by Kate Morton.

The novel weaves together an unsolved family mystery from the 1930s with a contemporary missing persons case. Loeanneth, a grand house in Cornwall, is the Lake House named in the title.

At the start of the novel Loeanneth is the tragic setting for the unexplained disappearance of 11-month-old Theo Edevane on the eve of his family’s beautiful midsummer party. Then, 70 years later, it is the abandoned and overgrown estate that Sadie Sparrow, a London detective constable on an enforced break from her duties, discovers while running near her grandfather’s house.

Most of us enjoyed the book, but felt that, at 600 pages, it was very long. We generally agreed that the beginning of the novel was slow and it took a couple of chapters to really engage the reader, but that the pacing improved as it went along. Somewhat conversely, most of the group also felt that the ending was far too neat and happened very quickly, which was disappointing after such a substantial build-up.

The plot (or rather, plots) dominated the conversation about The Lake House. It has a whole host of characters, and moves between time periods and settings quite abruptly. We thought that the plotting was occasionally overwrought and confusing, with a lot of twists. The group thought the novel might have benefited from slightly fewer plot-lines as it would have given it a tighter focus.

However, the bonds between characters were strong and the novel explored the way that tight familial or friendship bonds can alter the course of people’s lives. A lot of the characters made difficult choices as a result of their relationships with others, or kept haunting secrets for the good of their wider family or friendship circle. We discussed the portrayal of shell-shock in the novel and how much both the First and Second World Wars affected the characters: both the men who returned home from the conflict but also their families, long after the war itself had ended.

We noted the amount of research that had gone into the novel – the descriptions and names of places were very detailed, and the setting of Cornwall in the 1930s was evoked with skill. However, as with the plotting, we felt that sometimes there was a little too much detail that was incidental to the story itself.

On the whole we thought the book had promise, but was let down by a formulaic ending. We also agreed that at 600 pages, it was too long and as a result the plots sometimes struggled to maintain their focus.