Amazon Exclusive: A TALE OF PROVENCE: The story behind The Lantern
I’ve been having a love affair with Provence for more than 25 years. The light, the views, the colors, the heat—I find them all intoxicating. I went for the first time with the college boyfriend who would become my husband; his family had had a house in the Luberon for some twenty years. We finally bought our own property in France five years ago after my husband decided to give up banking and realize his long-held ambition to compose music.
“Les Genévriers” (not the property’s real name) is described in The Lantern more or less as we found it. Its setting is as accurate as I can make it without giving away its precise location. The Luberon area is one of the most sought-after locations in Provence, known for its hilltop villages, lavender, abundant fruit and clear bright light. It is the area Peter Mayle famously chronicled in A Year in Provence.
In addition to the abandoned farming hamlet, the story has its roots in the lavender fields and perfume industry in the region. There are small lavender fields and tiny family-run lavender distilleries all around where we live, but the main centers are to the north in Sault and, as described in the novel, to the east at Manosque and the Valensole plateau.
The idea of a blind perfumer came from the realization that there were strips of Braille on the packaging used by beauty product brand L’Occitane en Provence, based at Manosque. In 1997 the company created the foundation Provence dans tous les Sens (All the Senses of Provence) to introduce visually-impaired children to the world of perfume creation. In the novel, Marthe Lincel finds her true talent as a perfume “nose” after a visit to the Distillerie Musset from the school for the blind she attends in Manosque, although this episode takes place in the 1930s.
For most of the 20th century in this region, there was a gradual erosion of traditional farming as young people moved to the towns to seek work in the new industries and factories. The struggle was intense for those left behind on the hill farms in a region that was poor until the advent of mass tourism. In The Lantern, as Pierre--the only brother--takes off for better-paid work, and Marthe finds increasing success in Paris, this is the struggle faced by Bénédicte at “Les Genévriers”—and the past which gradually comes to disquiet Eve, the heroine of the contemporary narrative strand of the novel.
Like Eve, I am an avid reader and worryingly prone to over-imagination. While at the house our first summer, camping on stone floors, I re-read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and was as captivated by it as ever--but my thoughts wandered... what if I had come to this place knowing less about the area, or perhaps, less about the man I was with?
A Look Inside The Lantern
Click on the images below to open larger versions.
|Lavender field in sunlight||Garden door to the walnut wine cellar||View from Gordes to the Luberon ridge||A room with a view||Side door into the alleyway|
“Deborah Lawrenson’s new novel, a modern Gothic tale set in the lavender-scented landscape of Provence, serves up an escapist mix of mystery, romance and murder.” (Wall Street Journal)
“I absolutely adored this beautifully written, modern Gothic novel, set in Provence, full of scents, colors and mystery. Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s classic, Rebecca, The Lantern will hook you in from the start and weave its dark, lush magic around you.” (Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah's Key and A Secret Kept)
“Sensuous…. Lawrenson’s poetic prose vibrantly conjures up both the beauty of southern France and the ghosts, real or imagined, from different eras. B+” (Entertainment Weekly)
“With The Lantern, Deborah Lawrenson delivers a feast of sights, sounds and smells that grow and change and linger, like a wonderfully complex perfume. I was captivated by this marvelous, haunting bookat times vivid and lush, at times provocative and chilling.” (Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain)
“A seductive mixture of a Gothic ghost story and a modern romance. . . . If the story doesn’t keep you up all night reading, the sharp and beautiful descriptions of the South of France will. Deborah Lawrenson has written an alluring, dark novel that will haunt you and leave you wanting more.” (Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology)
“A luscious mix of romance and gothic ghost story.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)
“Deborah Lawrenson is a master of mood and shadow as she spins this absorbing tale of intense passion and growing dread. Her Provence is sumptuous and forbidding and utterly real. Prepare to be riveted.” (Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife)