The Secret By The Lake

 

by Louise Douglas

book review January 2016

 

Loving secrets and lies

 

By page 27 I had read about despair, deaths and disability in this gripping ghost story by North Somerset author Louise Douglas.

But were they all for real?

The Secret By The Lake is her sixth book and her best by far with echoes of Emily Brontë (someone outside at the window trying to get in), Daphne du Maurier (strange waterside dwelling and dead bodies) and Margaret Atwood (psychological thriller) with some exquisite descriptive prose and a polished plot.

Set in the early 1960s with flashbacks to a former age is starts with a ‘stolen’ necklace and ends with saving souls.

It portrays British family life from working class northern beginnings with a tense father/daughter relationship to a rural West Country subsistence existence with an idyll Francophile interlude.

On paper sometimes the plot and/or traits of the characters seem eerily to have real-life parallels and you are the voyeur caught in a tangle of deceit playing detective.

There are loose ends which shout sequel to me - missing mothers, Algerian angle and the elderly aunt left in Paris could do with being explored more – oh! and how did all the children turn out?

Our heroine’s walks by the lake, lovemaking in the lodge and her care for fellow creatures great and small are lovely but there are dark forces at work and a long journey before finding happiness.

 

'Beautifully written, chillingly atmospheric and utterly compelling, The Secret by the Lake is Louise Douglas at her brilliant best,' Tammy Cohen, author of The Broken

'A master of her craft, Louise Douglas ratchets up the tension in this haunting and exquisitely written tale of buried secrets and past tragedy,' Amanda Jennings, author of Sworn Secret

'A clammy, atmospheric and suspenseful novel, it builds in tension all the way through to the startling final pages,' Sunday Express, S Magazine

 

This book intensified my dislike of officialdom and poverty but the ‘norms’ of an age are so accurately recounted from the cost of grocery to the social etiquette of the time.

From a feminist perspective the portrayal of supportive women in harsh condition was heart-warming.

But we learn children should be seen and not heard wasn’t only for the Victorians - it existed in more modern times.

The lake in the book mirrors Blagdon and there are mentions of the Mendips hills.

At 400 plus pages while I wanted it to end at the point when the misery of grief was overwhelming then I didn’t because I wanted to know more about what happened next – it was a book once begun you can’t put down.

The author was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, but moved to North Somerset when she was 18 and has stayed here ever since.

Her three grown-up sons all went to school in Nailsea although the family has since decanted to Chew Magna.

Her first novel, The Love of My Life, was longlisted for both the ‘romantic novel of the year award’ and the Waverton Good Read Award, and her second, Missing You, won the People’s Choice Award at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Pure Passion Awards 2010.

In 2010, Louise joined Transworld, who published her third book, The Secrets Between Us.

This book was selected for the Richard and Judy Summer Read 2012.

Her fourth book, In Her Shadow, was published in paperback in August 2013 and the fifth is Your Beautiful Lies.

Louise still has her day job with aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

Carol Deacon

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