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Literary Missteps at 'The Lake House'

Literary Missteps at 'The Lake House'

As a rule, I stay away contemporary novels with flowery and ‘Victorian’ prose. I find them stilted attempts at approximating authors who haven’t been current in centuries. However, my mother gave Kate Morton’s The Lake House such a ringing endorsement that I couldn’t resist checking it out—plus, she had already downloaded it on her Kindle, and a free book is a free book.

The plot alternates between the 1930s and the not-so-distant past (in this case, 2003), a features a detective named Sadie Sparrow attempting to handle two parallel cases. One of the cases takes place in the book’s present day, and involves a mother named Maggie Bailey, a young divorcee who disappeared without a trace, abandoning her six year-old daughter, Caitlyn, for an entire week. Convinced of Bailey’s innocence, Sparrow leaks as much to the press—and when one of her co-workers finds out, he strongly encourages her to take a temporary leave from her position. Dejected, she heads to Cornwall, where her recently widowed grandfather has taken up residence. While there, she discovers an unsolved case from the 1930s—the youngest son in one of the town’s most distinguished families vanishes without a trace on the night of their annual ‘Midsummer Party.’ Sadie is drawn to the case and will stop at nothing to solve it—while she simultaneously attempts to prove her slip-up at work was actually a step in the right direction.

When I started reading, I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the book. When I got to the middle, I began to get a bit impatient with all of the “padding” she gives the dialogue—congratulations, you know what the word ‘copacetic’ means—and how long it Morton to reveal even the most minor of plot twists. I started skimming up to five pages at a time, tired of all the unnecessary dialogue that took place in the past and had no bearing on the book’s events; for example, when a shocking affair between two characters is revealed, the book travels back in time—to a 20+ page description of the characters’ first two meetings; one on the train, the other in the post office—granted, one of these meetings was necessary to introduce the beginning of the affair, but certainly not both.

The end is another beast entirely. I was reading on a Kindle—which I hate doing—but, as I mentioned before, it was free. One of the most annoying qualities of the Kindle is that is doesn’t state page numbers—so I had no idea how long the book was when I began. It became clear when I felt like I’d read a hundred pages and was still inching along at 14% that this was a tome—hundreds of pages long (I believe the exact count, according to Amazon, is about 512 pages). When I finally reached the blessed 88% point, neither case had been resolved. Then, in an ~utterly shocking~ and entirely unrealistic turn of events, every.single.mystery—in a book that amasses quite a few over its course—gets resolved. I would be hard-pressed to find a more ridiculous and far-fetched ending in literature anywhere. It completely diminished the tidbits of charm that still lingered from the book’s beginning, and I slammed the book shut [err, powered off the Kindle] on a sour note. I don’t like writing bad reviews, but I’m almost offended by the sheer laziness that this book’s ending represented. Save your time and skip to the end. 

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