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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 3 March 2005
After reading through god know's how many recommended 'Chic Lit' books I was starting to think there were not any good books out there! This book however, changed my opinion. I found it so captivating and exciting that I really couldn't put it down. It's one of those books that fits so brilliantly together at the end, that you sit there going "Ooohhhh! I see....." The plot is very clever, and it's a real pleasure to find a book that is so beautifully written. If you liked this then I would also recommend Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History' to you.
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VINE VOICEon 9 January 2007
"Latin's a dead language,

As dead as dead can be.

It killed off all the Romans,

And now it's killing me."

The old rhyme seems to be coming true for Heart Lake School for Girls, and not for the first time.

Like every girl at Heart Lake, Jane Hudson had known the old legend of the three sisters, transformed into rocks in the lake, who lured the unsuspecting out to their death by drowning. In her senior year, her two roommates and the boy she secretly loves are drowned in the lake: suicide, or accident? The School blames their Latin teacher, the charismatic Helen Chambers; Jane thinks she knows the truth, which now lies at the bottom of the Lake.

After the birth of her daughter, and her separation from the father, Jane returns to Heart Lake to take up Helen's old post. When pages from her senior year journal, long thought lost, begin to appear amongst her students' assignments, and then one of her class is found having apparantly attempted suicide, it seems that events are repeating themselves, or at least, that someone wants to make it seem that way. Then her love's cousin, a man with his own strange link to Jane's past reappears. Is everything just adolescent hysteria, or is something more sinister happening?

I enjoyed this very much. Though there are obvious plot similarities with Donna Tartt's The Secret History, this is a much more emotional book, its insanity much closer to the surface. In particular, the change between schoolgirl Jane, weak, scared, insecure, and the more assured Jane who returns to Heart Lake is well done. The plotting is intricate if a little heavy-handed. I defy anyone not to see who the villain is by about half way through, though ultimately, this does not matter; the important transformation is Jane's discovery of the truth about her own past, and this is completely compelling.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 August 2003
Jane Hudson has returned to Heart Lake – a girl’s school nestled cosily beside the waters of said lake – after 20 years to teach Latin. Many years ago, whilst studying there as a scholarship student under the charismatic Domina Chambers, a tragic series of events (the suicides of two roommates and her best-friend’s brother) occurred, that burnt themselves into the very fabric of Jane’s self, affecting who she is today. Now she’s back at the school, amidst the turbulent emotions of the teenage girls, struggling to cope with all the emergent memories, when, with horror she has to watch as the cathartic events of two decades ago appear to be recurring before her eyes…
This book is quite, quite amazing. I’ve not read a novel containing such rich, beautiful prose in a long while, with each word combining to form a fully realised almost tangible image, full of wonderful detail. Certainly, I’ve never come across a writer who can describe a lake in so many varied, and, quite frankly, once again beautiful, ways, with each new descriptions causing a bright smile of utter contentment to spread across my face, happy in the knowledge that our language can be used to evoke such wonder from a single image. The tone is, often, very claustrophobic and haunting, given the insular nature of the community in which the involving mysteries take place, and especially when concerning the eerie “three sisters”, - named thus due to an old myth surrounding the school - which are 3 stones which rise up out of Heart Lake, and seem to have some kind of mystical pull over the impressionable teenage girls of the school.
The characters are great, especially Jane Hudson (our likeable and very human narrator) and her young students, whom, in her Latin class are given classical “nicknames”, such as Vesta and Athena, which may be indulgent, but I found to be another completely magical touch. The plot itself is marvellous, original and puzzling all the way through and very engagingly told. Some people have said that aspects of the plot are predictable, but I didn’t find them so…I was far too wrapped up in the writing style to bother trying to second-guess the plotline. There are revelations throughout the story, each one bringing a wonderful level of ice-like clarity to one particular feature of the plot. The suspense is built up masterfully, yet almost invisibly, so you don’t notice it much, until suddenly there is a great sense of foreboding at the events soon to come. I am surprised that this is her first novel. All of this culminates brilliantly – along with the explanation of what truly happened all those years ago – to a pulse-pounding conclusion atop the frozen-solid surface of the lake.
Some books appeal to the heart, and some to the mind. For me, this one went straight to the soul.
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on 21 July 2008
The comparisons to the Secret History were inevitable given that it's a campus murder story with a bit of latin thrown in probably to encourage those comparisons but it's not as clever or well written as that and is trying a bit hard to be so. Having said that it is a very enjoyable thriller.
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VINE VOICEon 17 January 2004
I was attracted to this book initially for its Donna Tartt-esque mystery and style and, although in my opinion nothing can really equal The Secret History, i think Carol Goodman's book does offer a satisfyingly juicy thriller full of brilliant gothic devices. The characters were inventive and varied, and a boarding school drama never fails to inspire that school-age intrigue into the inner, darker workings of the staffroom. I think the atmosphere of teenage fantasy and dream works well in providing a suitably confused, whirlwind plot, while the backdrop of the Lake (the heart of the novel) is chilling and unusual - especially during the more icy episodes. I recommend this novel to anyone secretly drawn to myths, rituals and a midnight study of Latin and classics in an old, dusty dormitory.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 15 October 2014
I have read four or five of Carol Goodman's books and with each one I am struck with just how much I enjoy her writing style. Although writing in the present tense, at no stage does this seem awkward as it does with many authors. Her descriptions of people and places are both elegant and compelling.

This story is again set against the background of a girl's boarding school in the east of the United States, but north of New York, and the author clearly feels comfortable with this scenario as it is a recurring theme of her books. Also recurring are the parallels between different generations, although this tale perhaps lacks the supernatural overtones of others and is rather more of a crime mystery.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is not one to rush through, and much better to take it steadily and enjoy the sheer quality of Carol Goodman's writing. It is a mystery to me why she is not much more widely appreciated in the UK.
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on 9 November 2004
I was passed this book in a carrier bag of others and had no idea of its content until i had a good look at it. Being a huge fan of Secret History I thought I'd give it a whirl, being in the same classical vein. Far from it being a shadowy imitation of the aforementioned novel, I found it to be as different as chalk and cheese and thoroughly enjoyable.
I love this kind of book- ghosts rising from the past and needing to be laid to rest- and this goes on my top 5 of mystery books. It can't really be pigeonholed as anything though, like Secret History cannot be labelled a murder mystery.
There were enough twists to keep people guessing, and even if there are a few obvious ones it doesn't matter as everything begins to fall into place. It is rather satisfying for everything to come together and tie up regardless of whether you have worked out who is the weasel in the woodpile. Read it in a hot bubble bath on a winter evening and get pulled into Heart Lake's mysteries.
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on 29 December 2003
This book is the story of a latin teacher living in a remote college on the rivers of a lake and something from her past wich comes back to haunt her.
It is really thrilling and at times I often felt compelled to keep reading because the mystery at first is well developed and kept me guessing. On occasions the flashbacks about the past felt a bit dragging on, while I wanted to read more about the present and the college students instead of more of her teen years in the school. Towards the end, it's easier to guess what's going on, but it's still very much interesting to read.
I was fascinated many times by the author's style, wich is to me quite poetic.
The college is for troubled girls, and many of them have some story of attempted suicide or self mutilation. A supernatural halo surrounds the lake.
I think the only part not very well written is the relationship between her and a certain man, wich felt dull and not really making a lot of sense, however this doesn't play a big part in the mystery.
All in all a very good book.
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on 13 June 2002
Jane Hudson is a single mother who as a teenager went through a great deal only confiding in her journal. Years later goes back to the school as a teacher and ends up facing her past yet again.
The book is breathtaking, written in both the present and the past, it is a book you will not want to put down until its finished and then you will wish it hadn't.
It has many interesting twists that will keep you guessing right until the end.
Brilliant read, I would definately recommend it.
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on 26 May 2016
Fabulous book- loved the plot twists. Not really a big fan of this genre of book, but read it, loved it and ended up buying copies for 3 friends, all of whom loved it as much as I did. I later read "The Seduction of Water" by the same author, which is ok, but not as impressive, compelling or captivating as this book.
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