February 18, 2016

The Lake House by Kate Morton

A review of Kate Morton's newest mystery novel

The Lake House is Kate Morton's fifth book, but only the second one I've read.

A couple of years ago, for Tell Me What to Read, I finally read The Secret Keeper, after several years of meaning to try her out (my mom and my sisters are all big fans).

And I LOVED The Secret Keeper. It was phenomenal and I still remember finishing the last pages with thrill at discovering how the whole plot had unfolded.

Then, I promptly proceeded to read zero more of her books. I have no excuse.

The Lake House came out last fall and I started to hear more and more about it, how it was her best one yet, and still. . . I didn't read it.

And here's what I feel like I never hear about Kate Morton - I think her books take a little bit of time to get in to. I read the first few pages and then weeks passed before I picked it up again. I read a few more pages

She just has so much going on in the beginning, usually multiple narrators and two different time-periods, plus very little info about how any of it fits together, that it takes me a while to plow through enough that reading becomes enjoyable instead of a little bit frustrating.

So if you've picked up a Kate Morton and given up, know that you're in a good company (assuming you think I'm good company. If not, know you're in poor company)

Finally, a day or two before I left for Seattle, I picked it up again and restarted from the beginning (since it'd been months since I began it and I couldn't remember what happened in the first 40 pages), and this time, I got in the swing of it and was able to move quickly through it. My mom happened to be reading it too and we compared notes about our progress during our trip.

Anyway! The basic plot of the story.

Alice is a teenager in the 1930s. Her family owns a gorgeous mansion in England called Loeanneth where Alice and her sisters and little brother live quite the enchanted life with their parents. But then, on the night of the annual summer party, that youngest brother (Theo, age 11 months or so) goes missing.

Of course, the family is in an uproar and the police comb the grounds and surrounding town and country trying to figure out what might have happened to Theo. His body is never discovered so they don't even know if he's been killed, died in an accident, or been kidnapped.

Within a year, the family moves back to London and Loeanneth is left abandoned.

Fast-forward seventy years, and Sadie, a detective with the London police force, finds herself suspended from her job and seeks refuge with her grandfather in the countryside. Of course, she happens upon the abandoned (and now very overgrown) Loeanneth and asks enough questions to find out about baby Theo and the mystery of his disappearance that was never solved.

Since she has all the detective skills but nothing to actually work on, thanks to her leave of absence from her job, she starts poking around since working through this mystery helps take her mind off the case back in London that got her in trouble.

Sadie soon discovers that Alice is still alive (of course, very old by now) and is the best-selling author of dozens of mystery novels. But Alice wants nothing to do with Sadie and REALLY doesn't want to talk about what happened back in 1933 the night that Theo disappeared.

But Sadie isn't one to let the mystery go, and she's not about to be stopped by an old lady who doesn't want to talk.

The book jumps between 1933 (the night of the party where Theo disappears) and the present, and then also gives lots of flashbacks into the lives of Alice's parents before their marriage, early in their marriage, the years of WWI, and the years leading up to Theo's disappearance.

You also get Alice's point of view and Sadie's point of view, plus a few other minor characters (like Alice's assistant). Once you get into it, it's not hard to keep track of, but you might need a little faith in the beginning.

I rarely stay up late reading a book, but this was one I just couldn't put down because I had NO idea how it was going to play out and I had that rare heart-pounding/can't-read-fast-enough experience that is really pretty fun.

She just keeps you guessing until the very end. She loves giving you enough clues that you think you've solved the mystery and then you find out a few more details and suddenly your brilliant deduction is proved wrong.

I heard Modern Mrs. Darcy say on her podcast recently that Kate Morton likes her endings tied up neatly, but I thought this one was more than neat. While I loved the perfect way everything fit together in The Secret Keeper, this one was just TOO tidy.

I mean, I like a clean ending without a bunch of loose ends as much as the next person (LOST, this is me giving you the side eye), but this was just too much for me to swallow.

But either way, I think I'm finally convinced to go back and read some of her other books. If you have suggestions about which one to try next, I'll welcome your input.


Review copy received from publisher

25 comments:

  1. Adding it to my list! I appreciate the heads up that it takes awhile to get into!

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  2. I am determined to read one of her books ASAP after hearing about it on What Should I Read Next so frequently!! I'd heard that The Lake House and The Secret Keeper are some of her best. I started The Forgotten Garden YEARS ago and couldn't get into it, so maybe I should try that one out again soon too.

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  3. I love Kate Morton!! The one that sticks out most in my mind is The Distant Hours - it might have been atmosphere, though. I mostly read it in the evenings and around Halloween and it's sort of a ghost story.

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  4. We read this one for book club last month, and everyone said the same thing: the ending wrapped up so perfectly it was almost eye-rolling. But like you, I loved being in the middle of it because it was just such a fun book.

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  5. I think what you're saying about her books starting slow is spot-on. I loved The Secret Keeper, but a few people I recommended it to told me they gave up on it because they just couldn't get in to it, which I thought was a shame! I've only read that and The Forgotten Garden, which we read for book club years ago. I definitely recommend that one. The ending is still neat, but it was...different than I would've expected. I was left not sure how I wanted to feel--smile? Cry? I have Lake House currently checked out, so if better get to reading it.

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  6. I have read all of her books except the lake house. Just bought it recently and can't wait to start it! So far the secret keeper has been my favorite but I love them all and have re-read or listened to them many times. I just finished the house at riverton (again) and had forgotten how good it was. I would recommend that one for your next one.

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  7. How did I not know your blog existed!? I love reading!! What a neat place to find book reviews and recommendation! Glad Andrea at Living on Cloud Nine listed you as a favorite blogger!


    Amber
    All the Cute
    Latest Post: Lattes & Lipstick...

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  8. I read one Kate Morton book (can't remember which one) but was underwhelmed. I heard Anne Bogel talking about her on her podcast and now with you're recommendation, I'm going to give Morton another go!

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  9. I read one Kate Morton book (can't remember which one) but was underwhelmed. I heard Anne Bogel talking about her on her podcast and now with you're recommendation, I'm going to give Morton another go!

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  10. I couldn't agree with you more about the beginning and the ending. There is a good story once it gets going.

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  11. I've read The Forgotten Garden and The House at Riverton and loved both!

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  12. I finished it yesterday, and felt the same about the ending. Do The Forgotten Garden next. It's great!

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  13. I agree on every account! Hard to get into, but worth it once you get going. I love thinking I'm figuring everything out, only to let her reveal the next twist and rock my world again! The ending of Lake House wasn't as believable as some of her others though - "too tidy" is the right explanation I think.

    I too thought Secret Keeper was her best. Second place goes to The Forgotten Garden in my opinion- still a generational mystery with lots of narrators, but definitely didn't go where I expected!

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  14. I agree on every account! Hard to get into, but worth it once you get going. I love thinking I'm figuring everything out, only to let her reveal the next twist and rock my world again! The ending of Lake House wasn't as believable as some of her others though - "too tidy" is the right explanation I think.

    I too thought Secret Keeper was her best. Second place goes to The Forgotten Garden in my opinion- still a generational mystery with lots of narrators, but definitely didn't go where I expected!

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  15. Yes! That's exactly how I felt--I was so engrossed and couldn't wait to find out how it all played out, but then the end was just too much to be remotely believable...and this is from someone who hates ambiguity at the end of books.

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  16. Ah! I need to read this. I haven't read it and I feel like I already have drawn conclusions. Which I'm sure are all false and incorrect... The grandfather is Theo right? Nailed it?

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  17. I just picked this up at the library this week, and yay, you make me excited to dive in :)! The Secret Keeper is her only other novel I've read so far too, and I loved it. Like, couldn't get it off my mind for days.

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  19. Yes! I felt the same way about the ending- way too tidy and neat for me (and I always like a tidy/ happy ending :). And I think the only thing that kept me going in the beginning was wanting to know the ending! The back and forth start with no real obvious information as to what happened bothered me, but- wow- I appreciate how she keeps one guessing the ending. This was one I couldn't put down and wanted to keep sneak-reading when my girls were occupied. :)

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  20. I'm following many others and recommending that you read the Forgotten Garden next. :)

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  21. I'm in the same boat with Kate Morton. I've loved both (I also read The House at Riverton), but they take a bit to get going. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one!

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  22. I love Kate Morton. I've read them all except this one! My favorite is The Forgotten Garden, but it was also my first one. The only one I haven't loved is The Distant Hours. Even now, I'm kind of confused about it all. Maybe I should read it again :)

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  23. I've read three of Kate Morton's books. I think my favorite of those - though I loved them all - was 'The Forgotten Garden.' I definitely want to get to 'The Lake House' soon!

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  24. I have only read The Secret Keeper. I absolutely loved it. I was so surprised at the end. Such a great book. Can't wait to read this one. Love your blog!

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  25. The Lake House was the first Kate Morton book I read, and I loved it! I thought the tidy ending was nice, it was good to see that such a sad story could end a bit happy! The only other Morton book I've read was her first, The House at Riverton, and I wish that had a better ending, it was kind of depressing!

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