Thursday, 15 May 2014

Black Lake by Joanna Lane

review by Maryom

This is a story that opens with a family in crisis - Marianne has decided to fetch her daughter Kate home from boarding school, and hide out in a disused part of their rambling stately home - keeping everyone, husband John included, at bay and creating a safe haven where the world can't intrude. From this point, it backtracks to explore how the family have reached such a dreadful state of things.
Dulough (or Black Lake in English) is a mock-castle on the Donegal coast, owned and loved by generations of the Campbell family, but modern incomes don't stretch to the upkeep of old family properties. In financial desperation, John decides that the way forward is to allow the government to take over running the house and open it to the public. So the family move to a small damp cottage by the lake while visitors roam round the house and grounds - not an ideal solution and strains and stresses soon begin to tell.

Black Lake is a story of loss and a family falling apart. John's decision about the future of the house, taken without consulting his wife and children, proves to be the catalyst which brings everything tumbling down. As the story is told from varying points of view, a picture is built up of what Dulough meant to each of them and of how disoriented and adrift they felt having to leave it. The one thing none of them do though is admit any of these feelings to the other family members - instead they stumble along, barely speaking to each other, holding their feelings tight inside until something is bound to snap.
Despite the idyllic setting, and the family's deep love of their home, the dark waters of the lake, the overshadowing mountains and even the valley's name - Poison Glen, an English misinterpretation of Irish - all contribute to a brooding, foreboding atmosphere at Dulough, a feeling that tragedy is just waiting to happen.

An absorbing read and one that's bound to raise thoughts about what 'home' means, and about our ties to landscape or buildings.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - 
Tinder Press
Genre -
Adult fiction, literary

Buy Black Lake from Amazon


  1. Loved this one, though I was so caught up in the different chapters I didn't notice that no one said anything. The narrative suggested the other family members 'got' it, well, except the father, but you're right, the actual words aren't said.

    1. I think Marianne and John had no idea how the other felt about their situation - all of their conversations were limited to the mundane 'pass the butter, please' sort - but even the children seemed to bottle everything up instead of saying anything.