A stunning, multi-voiced, period piece – tackling race, gender politics, and the volatility of mid ‘60s America – from the author of SUNBURN
Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn’t hard to understand why: it’s 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing.
Maddie Schwartz – recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun- wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that’s been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she’s about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can’t imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.
“Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake..”
Set in Baltimore in the mid ‘60s, Lady in the Lake tackles some of the prominent issues of the era such as racial discrimination, women’s role in society and gender inequality. It is also a story of women trying to make a better and happier life for themselves, forbidden love and secrets.
The story begins with a haunting, mysterious, and foreboding prologue that left me excited about the book and full of questions that I couldn’t wait to have answered.
Told by multiple narrators, the two women whose stories are the focus of this novel, are also the narrators we see the most. Cleo Sherwood is a single mother who is trying to get ahead and create a good life for herself and her two sons. She had moved out of her parents house leaving her boys there, although she visited regularly, and was working in a local bar. She disappears on New Year’s Eve after being seen on a date with a mystery man but no-one other than her family seem to care.
Maddie Schwartz is the typical beautiful and perfect housewife but she feels bored and trapped. She leaves her husband after almost two decades of marriage and is trying to start again, which for her means an exciting relationship with an unsuitable man and getting a job as an assistant at a local newspaper. When Cleo’s body is found she becomes determined to find out what happened to her despite warnings that not only does no-one care, but she will get herself and others hurt if she pursues it. Wanting not only justice but her name on a story, she decides to ignore the warnings and continue her investigations.
The story unfolded in a way I didn’t expect but really enjoyed. I liked that I could never figure out who had killed Cleo and that most of the twists took me by surprise. I loved the historical aspect of the book and the author had me immersed in the era, especially when reading the parts narrated by Maddie and Cleo.
The abundance of narrators did sometimes feel too much, but most of them did give a perspective that added to the story and gave you possible clues so I could see a reason to give them a voice. The chapter narrated by Cleo’s eldest son was particularly heartbreaking and I was in tears reading it. It was a great reminder of Cleo as a mother as that side of her was overlooked by most people as they chose instead to focus on the more salacious side of her character to paint her in the light that suited them.
I’ve wanted to read a novel by this author for a long time so I was thrilled to have the chance to review this ARC and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Lady in the Lake reminds us how difficult it was for women of any race to make a better life for themselves outside of the social conventions in a time not so long ago. An intriguing and alluring novel that I would definitely recommend.
Thank you to NetGalley, Faber & Faber and Laura Lippman for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publication Date: July 25th