EXCERPT: Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake, a nasty broken thing, dragged from the fountain after steeping there for months, through the cold winter, then that fitful, bratty spring, almost into summer proper. Face gone, much of my flesh gone.
And no one cared until you came along, gave me that stupid nickname, began rattling doorknobs and pestering people, going places you weren’t supposed to go. No one outside my family was supposed to care. I was a careless girl who went out on a date with the wrong person and was never seen again. You come in at the end of my story and turned it into your beginning. Why’d you have to go and do that, Madeline Schwartz? Why couldn’t you stay in your beautiful house and your good-enough marriage, and let me be at the bottom of the fountain? I was safe there.
Everybody was safer when I was there.
ABOUT ‘LADY IN THE LAKE’: Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn’t hard to understand why: it’s 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing.
Maddie Schwartz – recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun- wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that’s been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she is about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can’t imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.
MY THOUGHTS: I ended up liking Lady in the Lake a lot more by the end than I did at the start. This is a book that is impossible to categorise; there are just so many facets to it. But they all meld seamlessly together to paint a portrait of life in the 1960s, a time when I was becoming a teenager, a time of great social change. Maddie is merely the vehicle for this story of the changing role of women in society, and the initial tentative steps towards racial equality, as is the death of Chloe (Eunetta) Sherwood. Don’t go into this book expecting a murder mystery; you will be disappointed. It is more of a social commentary.
I have to say that I didn’t much like the character of Maddie. She is cold, aloof, and selfish, and not inclined to think things through. Yet, I can also empathise with her. She had a dream and she followed it. We also find out more about her earlier life towards the end of the book and the events that shaped her.
Even though her ‘dream job’ of journalist left a lot to be desired – women didn’t get promoted and she still had to answer to men who were much like her husband – she stuck with it and stuck by her principles. While she grows as a person, and becomes more politically aware, she is still rather careless of the feelings of those around her. Her ambition is paramount. She is not a woman to whom relationships mean much, and she doesn’t appear to have friends. So, no, I didn’t much like Maddie, but I did have a little sneaking admiration for her here and there.
The ending of Lady in the Lake is interesting, and entirely unexpected.
The author’s notes at the end of the book are illuminating. While the two murders are inspired by two cases from 1969, the author has created her own version of these, and set them amongst real events from some years earlier.
While Lady in the Lake didn’t bowl me over, and I am not about to recommend it widely, it is an interesting and thought provoking read made up of a blend of historical fiction, politics, human rights and mystery.
THE AUTHOR: Since her debut in 1997, New York Times bestseller Laura Lippman has been recognized as one of the most gifted and versatile crime novelists working today. Her series novels, stand-alones and short stories have all won major awards, including the Edgar and the Anthony, and her work is published in more than 20 countries. A former Baltimore Sun journalist, she has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Glamour and Longreads. “Simply one of our best novelists, period,” the Washington Post said upon the publication of the ground-breaking What the Dead Know. She lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her family. (Amazon)
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Faber and Faber via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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