Black Lake by Johanna Lane

Review: Black Lake by Johanna Lane

I requested this copy from BookBridgr in exchange for an honest review.

‘The Campbells have lived happily at Dulough–an idyllic, rambling estate isolated on the Irish seaside–for generations. But upkeep has drained the family coffers, and so John Campbell must be bold: to keep Dulough, he will open its doors to the public as a museum. He and his wife, daughter, and son will move from the luxury of the big house to a dank, small caretaker’s cottage. The upheaval strains the already tenuous threads that bind the family and, when a tragic accident befalls them, long-simmering resentments and unanswered yearnings surface.’ GoodReads.

The novel opens a few months after a family tragedy. Marianne has travelled to Dublin to collect her daughter from school and locked them inside the ballroom, a previously disused and locked part of the Dulough estate. From here the book dips in and out of time, before and after the accident.

Marianne is on the edge of a breakdown for the entirety of her marriage, it seems. Sheltered by John from the financial problems of the estate, she is left to wonder their new life alone. It is the loss of Philip, Marianne and John’s son, that pushes Marianne to the edge. Even though Philip is a principle character for half the novel, I found it difficult to sympathise with the character. Both children, Philip and Kate, felt more like plot devices than fully formed humans. I think this comes from my lack of understanding of loss and parenthood.

The move the family must take from Dulough to a caretakers house is heartbreaking and disruptive. The children – and perhaps even Marianne – don’t understand the full implication of this loss. The separation from their house is similar to losing a family member, it brings on a deep sense of confusion and grief. All of the family members lose whatever sense of control and normality they are used to, their center-point is shifted.

When it came to the parents, I enjoyed the contrast between John’s Northern Irish life in comparison to Marianne’s Irish life. There is a scene where Marianne crosses the border with John and their car is searched. For John, this is a way of life, but for Marianne it’s an insult, and intrusion. I would have liked this aspect of the novel discussed further. It felt strange against the remoteness of Dulough, the estate. Demonstrative of Marianne’s otherness in the Northern Irish wilderness.

While there was nothing wrong with Black Lake, I couldn’t find my groove with it. A clash between fiction and reader, rather than anything lacking with the plot.

Black Lake by Johanna Lane is published in paperback by Headline and is available now.

2 thoughts on “Review: Black Lake by Johanna Lane

  1. I think your thought on the children being plot devices is fair. I liked them, but they were definitely there so Lane could explore two more points. More a study than a story per se. I found the differences between the parents telling. Again, an exploration, but there was a lot of detail to them.


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