Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lake of Dreams...Potential Unmet

When I participated in Christmas and Easter plays as a child, I remember the director  continually stressing the importance of the beginning song and the finale. She would say, "We've got to get those two parts down really well because the audience always remembers the first thing they see and the last thing they see." She was right. 
The author of The Lake of Dreams must have had similar training. The prologue and the ending of the book were good. I was captured by the cliffhanger at the end of the prologue as well as the could-be-theme revolving around the appearance Haley's Comet. Similarly, the ending was so neat and tidy that I finished the book almost forgetting how tedious the 300 pages between the “opening act” and the "finale" had been.
The book opens in 1911 on the night Haley's comet is to appear in the town of Lake of Dreams. The narrative discusses the fear of the general populace that the comet would poison the air outside. Rose, the central character of the novel is introduced as she, unafraid of the comet’s potential danger, sneaks out of her house to accompany her brother as he sets off on evening adventure that would ultimately change the course of her life. 
Chapter one brings the reader to present day Japan as the central figure in the modern story is introduced. Lucy Jarrett, the great, great-niece of Rose, is a woman discontented with her life and maybe with her long term love interest. She wavers into and out of a decision to return to her hometown Lake of Dreams to look in on her mother who has broken her arm in a car accident. Lucy eventually decides to return home where she happens to pick a lock in her bedroom and find papers written by her ancestor Rose.
The entire balance of the novel is the story of Lucy’s obsession with her search for information about Rose and about the stained glass windows that become involved in the mystery. While the simplicity of the plot would seem to provide an excellent framework for a tightly woven tale paralleling the lives of two women each on their search for their life’s meaning, such was not the case.
The story is peppered with unnecessary conversations between characters, unnecessary side-trails that lead nowhere, and characters that are given much space to develop in the story and are then left dangling in the midst of nowhere until the end of the tale where they are grafted back in for a grand finish.
I really wanted to like this book, unfortunately, after the prologue, I had to read nearly 300 pages before the story had any appeal to me at all. The storyline had such interesting potential as did the possibility of the development of the many available themes in the book but it simply did not live up to my expectations.
There were a few positive elements in The Lake of Dreams--I learned bits and pieces of the history of the Women's Suffrage Movement in the US, and I enjoyed the description of the stained glass windows throughout which depicted pivotal moments in the lives women in the Bible. I appreciated the tightly wrapped, if sentimental, ending as well, however, on the whole it is not a book I can recommend as one that readers should invest the time it takes to read the 400 pages.

If you'd like to learn a bit more about this book and its author, click here to go to the BlogHer Bookclub page where The Lake of Dreams is featured.

{This was a paid book review for BlogHer Book Club, my opinions, however, are entirely my own!}


Tiffany said...

Glad you posted this! I read and LOVED The Memory Keeper's Daughter several years ago, and probably would have been interested in this book had I come across it. (On the other hand, without reading the title of her previous book across the cover of this one, I would not have recognized her name....)

Gretchen said...

I've never read The Memory Keeper's Daughter but remember its beautiful cover. I read other reviews from reviewers that had read both and were a bit let down by this one after having really enjoyed the first!!
I'm excited to head back to my Christmas "Flavia" mystery now!!

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