Daughters of the Lake is a contemporary tale of love, betrayal and regret, set amidst Swiss mountains and lakes. Madalena summons her family to celebrate her hotel’s fortieth anniversary, unaware that they are living with devastating secrets. As time passes, tensions rise, and the evening of the celebration turns into a nightmare. Is this the end of the family or can it survive such an emotional catastrophe?
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What reviewers are saying about Daughters of the Lake:
An absorbing and gratifying psychological drama of family relationships
An intelligent and compelling read
One of the best books I’ve read this year
Extraordinary Story of Family Secrets and Deception
Portia surveyed the playroom of her childhood home. Nothing had changed: the oak bookcases, the dressing up box that Dad had assembled one stormy afternoon. Even the whiteboard, where they wrote their “thought for the day”, remained on the wall, several partially erased messages in red and purple pens bearing testimony to its regular use. She now wondered how her family would react if she wrote, “Mistake coming to Switzerland. Should have stayed in London.”
She closed the door, leant against it briefly, then wandered into the private sitting room. There were more changes here. The green and wine striped sofa and matching armchairs were new. So was the rug. On the sideboard lay a tea tray with the customary crockery and a bundle of flimsy Japanese paper napkins. Beside it, two stands displayed cakes on silver doilies.
Her eye rested on the corner walnut bureau, focused on the visitor’s book, and she made herself open it, read the names of attendees at Dad’s funeral. The leather felt comforting, but its smell, not sufficiently cured to conceal its origins, evoked an involuntary swallow. It didn’t seem like five years since they’d surrounded his chrysanthemum-bedecked coffin at the graveyard. Since she’d tolerated the incessant handshaking, mourners addressing her mother as “Frau Fontana” despite having known her for years.
Bereavement was supposed to bond families. Not theirs. Was this why Mum had summoned them back?
She flicked through the pages of tributes to her father. On the last page were the immediate family’s signatures. She read down the list – her siblings first: Annie’s forward slanting, open writing, with a smudge beside it, as if a tear had landed on the page as she wrote; Lawrence’s large, plain style and Vienne’s smaller, tighter script. With a constricting of her chest, she then studied Elliot’s calligraphic style – ironic that someone so scruffy as her ex could have sophisticated handwriting.
Everyone’s signature was there except Lucy’s.
It had felt inappropriate to be relieved about the funeral being a week after term began. To so easily justify Lucy’s remaining at school, where the housemistress would keep an eye on her in case she became distressed by Papa’s death. Inappropriate but understandable, certainly. With Lucy in Brunnen, Portia would constantly have been on tenterhooks.
Portia closed the book and wandered over to the window. Half way down the lake, boats with candy striped sails whizzed across the water, turned and tacked back in the easterly breeze. Such freedom. In the garden, Herr Huber was flinging weeds into a bucket which pinged as stone hit metal. Beside him lay a basket of coral and red roses, probably destined for a table centre this evening.
She helped herself to tea from the sideboard, wishing she could have the room to herself for longer. As the door opened, she stood to attention.
‘Portia,’ Vienne said, hesitating before hugging her and flopping into an armchair. ‘I hate early starts.’
Vienne’s habitual rosewater scent lingered on Portia’s neck. I’m your sister, it said. Remember?
‘How was your flight?’
‘You’d think with all my travelling I’d be relaxed about flying now. How long’s it been since we saw each other?’
Portia tugged at a loose thread on her trouser seam. ‘That charity concert.’
The evening when her past caught up with her.