Summary and book reviews of The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

The Lake of Dead Languages

By Carol Goodman

The Lake of Dead Languages
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2002,
    390 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2003,
    413 pages.

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Book Summary

In the evocative tradition of Donna Tartt's first novel, The Secret History, comes this accomplished debut of youthful innocence drowned by dark sins. Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson left the Heart Lake School for Girls in the Adirondacks after a terrible tragedy. Now she has returned to the placid, isolated shores of the lakeside school as a Latin teacher, recently separated and hoping to make a fresh start with her young daughter. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories that will become a living nightmare.

Since freshmen year, Jane and her two roommates, Lucy Toller and Deirdre Hall, were inseparable--studying the classics, performing school girl rituals on the lake, and sneaking out after curfew to meet Lucy's charismatic brother Matt. However, the last winter before graduation, everything changed. For in that sheltered, ice-encrusted wonderland, three lives were taken, all victims of senseless suicide. Only Jane was left to carry the burden of a mystery that has stayed hidden for more than two decades in the dark depths of Heart Lake.

Now pages from Jane's missing journal, written during that tragic time, have reappeared, revealing shocking, long-buried secrets. And suddenly, young, troubled girls are beginning to die again . . . as piece by piece the shattering truth slowly floats to the surface.

At once compelling, sensuous, and intelligent, The Lake of Dead Languages is an eloquent thriller, an intricate balance of suspense and fine storytelling that proves Carol Goodman is a rare new talent with a brilliant future.

Excerpt
The Lake Of Dead Languages

I have been told to make the Latin curriculum relevant to the lives of my students. I am finding, though, that my advanced girls at Heart Lake like Latin precisely because it has no relevance to their lives. They like nothing better than a new, difficult declension to memorize. They write the noun endings on their palms in blue ballpoint ink and chant the declensions, "Puella, puellae, puellae, puellam, puella . . ." like novices counting their rosaries.

When it comes time for a test they line up at the washroom to scrub down. I lean against the cool tile wall watching them as the washbasins fill with pale blue foam and the archaic words run down the drains. When they offer to show me the undersides of their wrists for traces of letters I am unsure if I should look. If I look, am I showing that I don't trust them? If I don't look, will they think I am naive? When they put their upturned hands in mine--so light-boned and delicate--it is as if a ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Given the trauma she endured there, why does Jane return to the Heart Lake School for Girls? Do you judge her options to be as limited as she does? Are there other factors at work in her decision?

  2. Jane acknowledges: "I had thought it was all right to marry someone I didn't love, but what I hadn't counted on was how it felt to share someone I loved with someone I didn't." Discuss the nature of Jane and Mitch's marriage and the impact Olivia's birth had on it.

  3. How does motherhood change Jane's life?

  4. Discuss Jane's socioeconomic background and its impact on her. Would you agree or disagree that class mobility in the United States takes a toll that is not always acknowledged or discussed?

  5. How does Jane's image of ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Trash, despite the highfalutin Latin and classic references-and not very sexy trash at that.

Publishers Weekly

Goodman debuts strongly with this intricately plotted and captivating tale of buried secrets.

Booklist - Brad Hooper

This ultimately pleasing debut novel suffers from some plot clumsiness, including a reliance on coincidence and a few situational implausibilities. These drawbacks are forgiven and forgotten as the story builds into a thrilling, diverting read.

Library Journal - Karen Traynor

Writing teacher Goodman has crafted a page-turner of a mystery that will keep readers enthralled to the end. Recommended for public libraries with followings for authors like Martha Grimes.

Reader Reviews
New York Times

A Slice Of Wonder
This book was fantastically gripping and suspenseful, with a manner much like Donna Tartt's "Secret History". This book, however, is still truly unique, and it is a puzzlement how it is not more then the next Twilight, it should be the next...   Read More

Daria Summers

Enticing, Captivating
Though some of the plots are a bit extreme, the editing of each scene can be realistic enough. Not to mention that every page leaves you curious, wondering, and sometimes a little bewildered with the "goings-on" as the story reveals it's twists and ...   Read More

Oroboros

good premis, clumsy execution
I did enjoy reading this book. I liked the metaphor of the lake water sinking then freezing, but as with Carol Goodman's other books (Mainly the Seduction of Water), I felt that she doesn't give her reader enough credit. She no sooner hints at a ...   Read More

liz

Trash with glimmers of hope
The book left me confused. Ususally I will like a book or dislike a book after reading it. I think it swerved from harlequine romance to decent thriller as often as every other paragraph. It became overwrought at the end and the brutality of the ...   Read More

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