A wonderfully executed story of loss and separation – Black Lake by Johanna Lane

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Writing Thoughts



The Campbell family built Dunlough on the Irish coast and have lived there for generations – but pressed by financial strain John decides to allow the government to run the house as an attraction, and to move wife Marianne and children Kate and Philip into a small cottage in the grounds. The sudden loss of home pulls the family apart, straining at bonds that were loose to start with. A tragic event on the day of the opening tips Marianne into madness, and the whole family into confusion.

This was a tale about many things. Though ostensibly about the loss of a country estate, a fascinating tale in itself, the real loss here is of the family unit, which somehow was defined and contained by the house it lived in. The tragedies are personal and private rather than social; we are invited into a world where no one can see each other clearly and where the smallest actions are hugely significant.

I was drawn to this book because the blurb reminded me of The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen, which I remember enjoying. The demise of the stately home is a popular topic; and though here it was a large party of the story I enjoyed the balance. We were concerned with the people, not the building.

The story came together nicely, focussing variously on each member of the family and gradually building together a scrapbook image of what really happened, and why, and how everyone reacted to it. It pieced together nicely, not overemphasising anything; rather allowing it to emerge as fairly real.

Really it is about a marriage and a family who have forgotten to connect to one another; with the moving house as an event that brings it all suddenly to light.The prose was well written; each character was believable and sounded authentic. We heard first and least from the daughter Kate, who thereafter seemed a bit of a mystery to me, but it worked anyway.

I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend a read!

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