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The Lake House at Lenashee review: A sublime blend of secrets, scandal and lore

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The Lake House at Lenashee

The Lake House at Lenashee

The Lake House at Lenashee

The Lake House at Lenashee Sheila Forsey Poolbeg, €9.99

The Big House, socialites, soirées and secrets are the elements employed by Wexford author Sheila Forsey in her new novel, The Lake House at Lenashee.

A dual timeline affords a glimpse of 1960s Ireland, in the times of political and religious cover-ups, and the more forgiving Ireland of 2019.

A world-renowned chef sits in her Parisian apartment in dread of returning to Ireland after years of hiding from her past and the memories of Lenashee: “A house overlooking a silver lake where the events of one night in the summer of 1967 would be replayed like a kaleidoscope in the recesses of her mind for decades – haunting her nights.”

What happened at the Co Clare residence? Forsey leads us on a journey through time and memory to uncover the secrets held behind those gates.

A family group meet in Lenashee and have recruited the help of housekeeper Vonnie, cook Moira and Rosemary, a fashion stylist. The house is owned by Harry Griffith (a man with new money) and his socialite wife, Ida. They are joined by Harry’s brother, his sickly wife and their young daughter.

Forsey uses lyrical language to describe Lenashee’s lavish ambience, with its lake of swans and its glorious rose gardens. The narrative is peppered with descriptions of sumptuous meals prepared for the guests and the demands on such a small staff.

However, a fog hovers over the water and the house is shadowed with a strange vibe. Vonnie expresses her fears to Moira: “Ever since I set foot in this house I have had an uneasy feeling. A strange sense to the place, as if... I am not alone, as if someone is watching me.” The ill sister-in-law is deteriorating in her room and events take a dark turn.

Forsey’s novel has echoes of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca as secrets, scandal and folklore are blended and cross over five decades of memories. A Gothic-style tale with an Irish twist, this is escapism at its best. 

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