An atmospheric tale of a young woman committed to a mental institution.
While locked away in the Lake House Anna sees a bridge, she thinks this is the only means of escape and imagines running over it, only to be told that the bridge is actually painted. There is no escape via that way as a young mother of two jumped off it holding both her babies leaving the home owner no choice but to knock it down. They decided to painted a mural in so much detail it matched the beautiful bridge because some guests were disturbed that it had gone and it was the most beautiful sight in a house full of sadness and gloom.
The book is set in Victorian London, the main character is Anna Palmer. Anna is originally from Dover. Her father was a sailor and died at sea, her mother is a housebound widow living on the white cliffs. Anna was the youngest of her sisters and did not marry until mid-twenties. She married a Vicar called Vincent Palmer and moved to London with him to live in the vicarage. She is described as a beautiful young woman with soft white skin and beautiful long brown hair. Her husband’s reason for institutionalizing her is that he believes she is crazy because she claims to have dreamed of men drowning at sea calling for her, so she packed her bags and set out to help them. Her behaviour sounds a little bit absurd but is there a hidden agenda in Mr Palmer extreme reaction? Anna finds a letter addressed to a Miss Maud Sultan which suggests to the reader that he is hiding something.
Vincent Palmer comes across as a very cold and distant character who doesn’t involve himself in much conversation. He is devoted to his vicarage and is here on earth purely to do his godly duties. But putting his new wife in a mental institution is not done with pure motives, Vincent has been involved in an affair, in fact his whole marriage is an affair as he was with Miss Maud Sultan before he was married to Anna and he has a child with her! It is described that on the wedding night him and Anna made plain blunt love it was over in seconds and she felt nothing no emotions – when the book it talks of Miss Maud and Mr Palmer it sounds more electric you can read the passion and depth, they seem more suited together. Later we discover the reason for his marriage, he is a vicar and it was required of him to set an example to his people and marry a clean young women. Hence why he chooses Anna, Miss Maud is a stripper so despite his love he is forbidden to marry her as his duty to god is much stronger.
When we come to the Lake House mental institution the cast of characters is widely expanded:
• Querios Abse (owner) is a very dominant and in control man who has inherited the home from his father. He grew there as a boy and isn’t too bothered about traveling outside the walls of the institution. His business is going downhill as it is set in a time when government funded asylums began to blossom.
• Emmeline Abse ( his wife) is a woman who has devoted herself to her husband and sacrificed her life to stay in the grounds of the institution, she supports him and raises the children.
• Catherine Abse (his daughter) is very creative. She loves reading poetry and she longs to go out and travel instead of being stuck in the grounds of her dad’s institution isolated from society.
• Talitha Batt (longest resident) she was placed into the lake house by her family because she fell in love with an Asian man and her family disapproved so she eloped with him but was found and dragged to the asylum, they collect her for Christmases and New Year’s but have said until she no longer loves him or has any feelings for him she is insane.
• Mrs Lovely (ex patient/new staff) was once a patient at the lake house but showed good signs of recovery and now works for Querios Abse. She is very common in the way she speaks and sympathises with the patients a lot more than others.
Wendy Wallace is truly an amazing author, she seems to draw you in within the first few pages. The main feature that made me enjoy the book is her ability to describe. She goes into such depth about how the characters feel and look it’s almost like there’s a real person you can picture in your head and you can sympathise with their emotions and understand their actions. The way the book is written makes it so easy to escape to Victorian times and imagine yourself as a by passer hearing someone else’s story. I usually find it hard to feel this captivating effect but it was easy with this story.
I would definitely recommend it also followed by her other novel (Sacred River) which I’m reading now. I can’t think of a bad word to say about this book I loved every moment of it and felt she never got cross tracked or mixed up, it was easy to read and understand each character and their role in the story.