Book Review: The Thing from the Lake By Eleanor M. Ingram
In the 1920s Roger Locke is a composer living in New York City. He buys a house by a lake in Connecticut as a country retreat and appoints his cousin, Phyllida, and her husband, Ethan Veer, as caretakers of the property. His first night on the property, he meets a woman–whether spirit or alive, he can’t tell–and is promptly intrigued by her. His visits quickly turn sinister, though, as a dark force based in the lake comes at night to threaten Roger away from the woman. What is the thing in the lake? Who is this woman? Can Roger defeat the dark force thereby returning himself and his cousins to their idyllic lifestyle?
I had a feeling I was going to like The Thing from the Lake when I discovered that every chapter started with a relevant quote pulled from the classics of the western canon, and I was right. Ingram weaves a complex tale, filled with surprising twists and turns. Just when you think you know what the overarching point is, or where the story is going to go next, you find out that you were wrong.
Ingram artfully goes back and forth between the daytime where the story is more period piece and the nighttime, which is all horror. It is a very New England tale, featuring small farmers, big city dreams, references to the Puritans, and quirky, drawling neighbors. While Phyllida and Ethan are believable and infinitely likeable, Roger’s immediate infatuation with the woman is a bit suspect. It seems shallow how infatuated with her hair and her scent he is, but I think he later proves himself. Sometimes people just know when they meet, so I’m willing to give Roger the benefit of the doubt.
Ingram leaves it up to the reader whether to believe the scientific or the supernatural explanation for the goings on at the lake. It reminded me of my class on the Salem Witch Trials a bit, and I’d be willing to bet that Ingram was at least partially inspired by them. It’s not easy to make both answers to a mystery equally plausible, but she pulls it off wonderfully.
The only thing holding me back from completely raving about the book is that there are parts that smack of historic misogyny. I’m not blaming Ingram. For her time period, many of her thoughts were quite progressive, and I’m sure Roger is an accurate representation of many men of that time period. However, when he speaks about how his “plain cousin” Phyllida is so much more comely when she’s doing “womanly” household chores, it makes me cringe, and not in the good horror way. Thankfully, these instances are not that frequent, so they’re easy enough to glide over.
The Thing from the Lake is a surprisingly thought-provoking book. I highly recommend it to everyone, but particularly to those who enjoy New England literature or light horror.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Librivox recording by Roger Melin via the Audiobooks app for the iTouch