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Literary Friday: The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick

Friday, March 15, 2019

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing with you a a very interesting supernatural mystery:  The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick.  

According to Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of House of Shadows and The Phantom Tree comes a spellbinding tale of jealousy, greed, plotting and revenge—part history, part mystery—for fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Barbara Erskine

London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.

Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…

250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can't tell what is real and what is imaginary.

As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and its past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.

My Review:

First off, I think some of the comparisons in the Goodreads synopsis are interesting, but I think the BEST comparison would be with Susanna Kearsley's books.  If I could describe the plot in a nutshell, I'd say that the plot centers around a mysterious dress and how it impacts three women: two who lived in the past (Lady Isabella Gerard and her lady's made Constance) and one in the present (Fenella Brightwell, or Fen).  The narrative's supernatural elements include a "timeslip" enabling the enchanted dress to "travel" from the past to the future.  The dress's erie qualities aren't ever truly explained, and this is one of my only criticisms of the book.  What we do know as readers is that whatever unique tendencies our personalities have (good or evil) the dress magnifies them exponentially.  Also, all three women are abused by the men in their lives, so the major theme is female empowerment as all three overcome the abuse.

Because the story is told from all three women's points of view and the plot is very fast-paced, none of the three were well-developed.  For example, I really don't understand what Fen actually teaches at the college where she's employed; it is never truly explained.  Still, I love the story, and I couldn't put it down; I literally read it in one sitting.  Another thing that Nicola Cornick does in her writing as she weaves together two dispirate plotlines is this:  She will throw out a sentence (usually a passing thought of one of the three women) and it's like a little tasty morsel about the mystery.  Then nothing!  I would think: What did I just read?  What is the backstory to this?  Fortunately for her readers, Cornick does explain most of these tasty plot morsels, but she does leave a few to the imagination especially about the power of the dress.

If you enjoy gothic, historical, time-slip novels, you will love The Woman in the Lake.  I learned from Nicola Cornick's author's note that one of the novel's characters was based on a real person: Lady Isabella was based on a real-life aristocrat, Lady Diana Spencer, an ancestor of Princess Diana.  Cornick is also inspired by the history of Swindon, especially the moonrakers.  Serendipitously, I recently read a little blurb about the history of the moonrakers in the UK edition of Country Living Magazine, legend has it that smugglers were first called moonrakers in the Yorkshire village of Slaithwaite.  Smugglers avoided arrest when retrieving their bounty from the village pond by claiming to be moonraking, or trying to catch the mooon, which was reflected in the water.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Woman in the Lake from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a raid and honest review.

Have you read anything fun lately?  If so, please share in comments.

Also, I wanted to remind you that we are reading Anne of Green Gables for book club this month.  Discussion will be on Friday, March 29th.  

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. Wow, you read this in one sitting??? It must be good!

  2. I actually can't remember the last time I read a book that could fit into the gothic category but this one has been on my list for awhile! Thanks for being on the tour.

    Sara @ TLC Book Tours

  3. I'm very curious about this one! It's too bad the characters are more developed, though the timeslip and gothic elements sound wonderful.


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.


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