A stand-alone mystery book.
Publication year: 2002
Page count: 390 + a reader’s guide and excerpt from her next book, the Seduction of Water
Publisher: Random House
Jane Hudson is a Latin teacher in the Heart Lake School for Girls, which is situated right next to an actual lake, the Heart Lake. She has recently divorced from her husband and lives a cottage near the school with her young daughter Olivia. In the lake itself are three big rocks which are said to remind of three sisters who killed themselves by drowning in the lake.
Jane was also a student in this school twenty years ago and her time ended with a tragedy: both of her roommates died; they killed themselves. Now, someone leaves pieces of Jane’s old diary to her which brings the memories back to her mind and it even seems as some of Jane’s students want to kill themselves.
Most of the book is told in flashbacks which are written in past tense. The current day events are written in present tense. The POV is from Jane’s first person narrative, so the reader gets a really intimate look into her and her life. She’s always been a lonely person and even though she tries to please her mother, she never succeeds. When she was a teenager, she took a Latin class and became friends with two of her classmates, Lucy and her brother Matthew. They became very tight. Jane and Lucy when together to Heart Lake and were roommates. The third girl in the same room was Deirdre, whom they didn’t know at all but who quickly becomes a part of their gang. She smokes pot and introduces the other girls to it, too. Lucy has a magnetic personality and Jane is completely fascinated by her. Unlike Lucy or the other girls in Heart Lake, Jane comes from a poor family.
The book has a great, spooky atmosphere. Most of the events take place during autumn and winter, and the freezing lake is described beautifully. Since the vast majority of characters are girls, there’s also wonderful description of friendships between girls. Some of the friendships are genuine and some less so, just like in real life. Things are going on which Jane doesn’t know about but readers can see or guess. Goodman also uses literary metaphors a lot and I enjoyed the descriptions of her Latin classes and the classic texts they were reading. The mix of classics and the eerie atmosphere was great.
However, the present day mystery was overshadowed by the events in the past and since there weren’t many suspects I was able to figure out the guilty party before the narrator (for once). Also, the romance came quite out of the blue and felt almost an afterthought. Jane’s daughter also felt more like a plot complication than a person. Of course, she’s only four.