The Lake House, by Kate Morton

9781742376516.jpgThere. It was done.
It crossed her mind that she should say something before she left this lonely place. Something about the death of innocence, the deep remorse that would follow her always; but she didn’t. The inclination made her feel ashamed.

It is 1933 and sixteen year old Alice Edevane is blissfully happy. She has just finished writing her first mystery novel, and she is secretly in love. As her family prepares for their annual Midsummer-Eve party, Alice prepares to offer both the manuscript and herself to Tom, the object of her affections. But not only are her hopes dashed, but something far bigger, far more terrible, will befall the family before the night it out.

Seventy years later, Detective Sadie Sparrow finds herself taking enforced leave after getting too involved with a case. Staying with her much-loved grandfather in Cornwall helps to fill the time. When she stumbles across an abandoned house in the woods, she uncovers the mystery of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace in 1933. Her interest aroused, she becomes determined to solve the mystery.

When Alice Edevane, now elderly and a successful author of detective novels, learns of Sadie’s interest in the case, she it first resistant to having the case reopened. But perhaps together they can uncover the truth and bring closure to the past.

The Lake House is a well-woven story of mystery, heartache and love. While the mystery creates a link across the seventy years, so too do themes of motherhood, loss, and dealing with trauma. Alice’s father is, unbeknownst to his children, suffering from his time at World War 1, and Sadie is haunted by having given a baby up for adoption at the age of sixteen. Other characters, too, have traumas of their own – including Sadie’s grandfather, who has recently lost his wife, and the Edevane’s family friend Mr Llewellyn who gave up practicing medicine and suffered a breakdown.

The narrative unfolds through the viewpoints of Sadie, Alice and Alice’s mother, Eleanor, with dates at the beginning of each chapter helping the reader to keep track and to gradually build a picture of both the events of the baby’s disappearance as well as those that lead up to it . These three female leads are complemented with a broad support cast, including Bertie, Sadie’s grandfather, Alice’s sister Deborah, the mysterious Ben Munro and Alice’s assistant, Peter.

At 591 pages, this is a big volume, but the length is justified by the beautiful writing and the complexity of the plot.

The Lake House, by Kate Morton
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781742376516