The prologue to this novel leads you to believe that it may be a takeoff on Du Maurier’s Rebecca, but this wonderful story stands alone. When freelance writer Eve meets Dom while vacationing in Switzerland, she wants nothing more than to spend her life with him. Like Maxim in Rebecca, he is older, wealthier, and in need of companionship – and, like Rebecca’s protagonist, she acquiesces. They fall madly in love and move to Les Genévriers in Provence, an ancient farmhouse. They explore its intricacies – the secret passageways, hidden rooms, and relics of a time gone by. Eve’s life seems perfect, even though Dom will not discuss Rachel, his erstwhile wife, but she doesn’t think it’s a problem until they meet Sabine at a local dinner party and she greets Dom with all the warmth of a former acquaintance. This causes Eve to rethink his secrecy about Rachel and the history of their home and why he chose to live there. She becomes even more curious as Dom evades her questions about Rachel.
This story not only gives a beautiful description of Provence, but a glimpse into the history of lavender production there. Bénédicte, a former resident of Les Genévriers, haunts Eve, and we are privy to her history and that of her blind sister, who succeeds famously in the perfume industry of the region just after World War II. Bénédicte is haunted by the ghosts of her past – her sadistic brother, Pierre, and the love of her life, Andre. The lantern plays a magical part in this story, too.
This book is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. I also think that anyone contemplating a trip to Provence should not hesitate – Deborah Lawrenson is onto something there.