I didn’t set out trying to find my favorite book of 2015 — I’ve read a lot of good books lately. Several I’ve considered favorites. But then I picked up Kate Morton’s latest novel and by the time I finished, I knew I’d found it, one I authentically loved and couldn’t wait to recommend as my favorite book of 2015.
If you’ve read any of Morton’s prior books, you can guess The Lake House is a family mystery spanning generations. Morton chose her familiar favorite backdrop, an English countryside manor, for her fifth novel, but even though this novel is familiar in setting, she has created another fresh and wholly unexpected story. Kate Morton is a genius storyteller.
It all begins with a girl named Alice in 1933, who drags a shovel and a heavy box through pouring rain to bury something in the middle of the night. What is in the box? Naturally, we wonder what it is as we meet the girl’s family—her two sisters and brother, mother and father—and friends at their annual Midsummer’s Eve party at Loeanneth, their lake home in Cornwall. The next day, it is discovered that Alice’s baby brother has vanished from his crib and is nowhere to be found.
The storyline shifts to 2003 where we meet Detective Sadie Sparrow, who, when visiting Cornwall, stumbles upon a deserted manor house beside a lake. When she asks in town about the lake house, she finds out about a child who went missing long ago and when he never turned up, the family abandoned the home to move to London.
Historical events and wars influence the characters and the story. Everyone from the gardener to the mother-in-law to the main character unfold as interesting, full-bodied characters, ones who make unpredictable decisions and have complicated motives. I especially loved the character of Eleanor, Alice’s mother, one in the story I didn’t expect to like by the end. But I did. To me, that is the magic of a great writer.
I marked many phrases which struck me, like:
“”We are all victims of our human experience … apt to view the present through the lens of our own past.”
“His parents had worked on archaeological digs in the Far East when he was a boy and he’d realized then that the possessions people coveted in the fleeting present were destined to disappear; if not to turn to dirt, then to lie buried beneath it … His father had unearthed many such items, he said, beautiful objects that would once have been fought over. “And they all ended up lost or discarded, the people who’d owned them dead and gone. All that matters to me are people and experience. Connection—that’s the thing.”
I love a story which has heart, and The Lake House has one. Many, really. There are secrets which go untold, promises which are kept and others which are broken, love shared and withheld, the taking and giving of life. The Lake House is a long book, but it reads short — the characters are so full and real that they’re impossible close the book on them to stop reading. From the beginning, I formed an idea in my head what Alice was burying with the box, but the twists and turns in the story kept me guessing what really happened all the way to the end.
If there is one long doorstop of a novel to read this year, it is The Lake House. It is my favorite book of 2015 and, to me, is the best of Morton’s books yet.
Have you read The Lake House or another of Kate Morton’s books? Please stop by GreatNewBooks.org and share there (where I’m posting this week, as well). Thank you! I look forward to hearing what you think!