Saturday 17 March 2012

Daphne...and subtlety

Following my post about the fragrance and romance of Daphne Odora, here’s where this beguiling scent makes an olfactory appearance in The Lantern. During a work trip to Geneva, Eve makes the short journey around the lake and across the French border is Yvoire with its renowned Labyrinth of the Five Senses. In the maze in the grounds of the château, she meets Dom for the first time.

   I wandered quite happily on my own, unconcerned by the maze but ever more certain with every sense that I had taken a wrong turn somewhere in life. My so-called career was in a dull phase, and as such a reflection of my own limitations; it was one of the reasons I accepted the job that had brought me briefly to Switzerland. As for any social life, it seemed as if high tide had receded, leaving only wrinkles and minor wreckage to show for the fun.
   Then everything changed.
   There, in a living cloister of hornbeam, the air richly perfumed by a line of daphne, there was Dom.

                                                       From The Lantern

Those readers who enjoy subtlety will appreciate how the details in this tiny scene encapsulate many of the novel’s themes. There’s perfume, of course, but with the added implication (for those who are familiar with the show-stopping qualities of daphne) that this is a moment charged with heady romance. But it bears a warning too, from the mythological Daphne being chased by Apollo to her frightening transformation. You can draw your own conclusions about the hornbeam…

This is the introduction of the sensuous theme – the interplay of all five senses - and the garden, with all its Edenic associations, enclosed here around a puzzle.

Finally, in the plant daphne is the seed to the sub-conscious that leads Eve to read Daphne du Maurier. When she discovers that Dom’s ex-wife is called Rachel (another of du Maurier’s mysterious titular characters, from My Cousin Rachel), Eve is drawn to re-read Rebecca, and in her over-imaginative isolation, she will impose that story on her own situation.

My intention was show Eve intensifying her own experience in Provence, so deeply sensitive to every detail that the dazzling world she narrates is partly her unspoken escape from reality – into a hyper-reality formed of books and stories. This rose-tinted world masks her fears about the relationship, begun with such dreamy optimism in what seemed like paradise in the South of France.

For an author, there is nothing better than a reader/ reviewer who really understands what you have tried to achieve. I know there are plenty of others who feel that the descriptions in this book are overdone; it’s a matter of personal taste, after all, and also how quickly you want to skim along the surface of a book. The Lantern is currently on a TLC Book Tour (link here) and among some lovely and receptive blog reviews is one from Courtney at Stiletto Storytime, who made my heart sing when she wrote:

The Lantern is really a feast for the senses bringing both the past and the present to life through thoughtful descriptions (…) in such lush detail from the smell of a flower to the slant of the sun and yet you never feel overwhelmed by her details just included, (…) layering events, people and every day nuances just so throughout her writing. To read this book is to really be taken away from the average and thrust into another world. A world of sights, smells and mystery…

Thank you, Courtney – a posy of Daphne Odora for you! The whole review is here. And if anyone is interested in how I see the novel, including the reasons for the entanglement with Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, then click here.
Labyrinth of the Five Senses, Yvoire

Click on the link here for the garden website: Gardens at Yvoire


Muriel said...

Reading "The Lantern" was a feast of all senses. It is the first time that I could imagine the smells of a book. I can't wait for your second novel!

Libby said...

I have never heard of the Labyrinth of the Five Senses before...I HAVE to get your book! It sounds like something I would like and I "know" the author ;)

Elizabeth Young said...

Can't wait to read your book Deborah, it appears delightful in oh so many ways, more of an experience than a read! Always love what you share and the picture is beyond charming.

aguja said...

I do believe that it is important to have subtleties in a novel - more beneath the skin - and you introduce them brilliantly in The Lantern.
I disagree with those who query the descriptions as they are what nurtures the novel as it unfolds its secrets.

Greta post!

Adiante said...

Mais tu étais donc dans ma belle région !!! Nous aurions pu nous voir !

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