“The key to the perfect novel, Alice had decided, was to revolve the story around a crime’s solution, all the while tricking the reader by making it seem she was doing one thing when in fact she was merrily doing another.” – The Lake House by Kate Morton
It’s safe to say that Kate Morton is my favorite author. I first read her book The Distant Hours a few years ago for my long-running book club (15 years!) and have now read all of her novels save one. I have The Clockmaker’s Daughter left to read only because I’ve somehow had the self-control to spread reading her six novels out. They have never disappointed and I dread the day when I have to just wait, who knows for how long, for another one of her books to be published!
Why do I love Kate Morton’s work so much? Because I’m a big fan of the Romantic and Gothic genres that she writes in. What do I mean? In the smallest of nutshells:
- Romanticism = A response to the rationalism of the Enlightenment. It hit the scene around 1800 and focused on heightened emotion; such as passion, awe, sensibility, and horror; as well as nature’s sublime landscape.
- Gothic Literature = An emergence from Romanticism. It focused on horror, the uncanny, death, mystery, fear, the supernatural, and the occult.
There are lots of similarities and crossovers between the two genres, but I don’t want to dive that deep into them here. Some of their commonalities that I appreciate the most are:
- A preoccupation with literacy (books, journals, letters, poems!)
- A reverence, even fear, for nature (dark and magical woodlands or garden landscapes to explore!)
- An investigation and celebration of the self (a hero’s quest, a soul searching adventure!)
- Unnerving man-made atmospheres (old castles and abandoned homes with secret passageways!)
And Morton’s The Lake House has all of the above! PLUS, (as the discussion questions in the back of the book pointed out to me) it has the added twist of working in common elements of crime fiction. Morton accomplishes this by having two of her main characters work in fields relating to crime: Sadie Sparrow is a detective and Alice Edevane is a crime novelist.
The mixing of these genres worked out incredibly well in The Lake House. I was completely pulled into the criminal cases Morton laid before her reader and was terribly disappointed when the book was over, although more than satisfied with the cases’ conclusions. There’s an abandoned house, overgrown gardens, journals, letters, and two unsolved mysteries and I was intrigued by them all from the beginning of the story.
Have you read any of Kate Morton’s works? Or any contemporary works that could fall into the Gothic or Romantic categories? I’d love to hear your thoughts and get some reading recommendations in the comments below!