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The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt
#1
Big Grin 
Setting:
Roland's Croft, New Forest, England
The house of a thousand lanterns, Hong Kong, China
ca. 1886-1896

From the blurb:
From the moment Jane Lindsay hears of the House of a Thousand Lanterns she is fascinated by it. But she never imagines she will see it, for the house is on the other side of the world, in the teeming oriental port of Kowloon.
Then her dream comes true and she visits the house, a very different person from the young girl who was first entranced by the sound of it. Now the wife of a rich art dealer, she is trying to make a new life and forget the man she loves.
But the House of a Thousand Lanterns shatters her new found peace. Beautiful, alien, menacing, it seems to be guarding a secret – a secret which Jane knows she must discover if she is to find happiness…

Review:
I liked it like I like all Holts. At the end I thought there was no way she could give us any other villain but the hero: everything pointed in his direction. I even didn't like him anymore, seeing him as evil. But of course I was wrong. The hero is never the villain, is he? I was sceptical when I went through the explications of who the real villain was and why, but after a while came to accept it as quite plausible. Kudos for Ms. Holt.
While reading I once again noticed the easy way in which she writes. No floral speech or over the top complicated sentences here. It's like the reader really is presented with the diary of a normal woman. I love it.

I had the idea of rereading all Holt's books again and writing an extensive summary of all of them. Well, the rereading part is doable over time, but I don't feel like writing these summaries anymore. It took me hours to compose this one. And please keep in mind that English is not my mother tongue, which makes it even harder. I'll post the summary below for those who want to know all about the book without having to read it all themselves. Please enjoy! Wink

SPOILER ALERT – DON'T READ ON IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED!

A summary:
Jane is 15 when her father dies and her mother needs to find employment as a housekeeper to be able to keep paying for Jane's schooling in classy Cluntons'. Her father was a gentleman who got banned from his family because he fell in love with an innkeeper's daughter. Mrs. Lindsay asks that her daughter be allowed to spend the hollidays at Roland's Croft, where she is the housekeeper. Jane loves going there as the house is interesting and situated in the beautiful New Forest. There is a treasure room in the house that is kept locked, which fascinates her. The owner of Roland's Croft deals in Chinese art and he keeps his most valuable pieces there. One night Jane creeps into the room and gets locked in herself. Mr. Sylvester Milner finds her there, but he isn't angry as he likes the inquisitive girl. She is holding yarrow sticks and when she puts them on a table, he sees in them that their fates are connected. So luckily her mother is not dismissed. A year later Mr. Sylvester Milner proposes that Jane come help him with his work after she finishes school, and Jane starts learning all she can about the Chinese culture and art. When she is almost 18 she meets Joliffe Milner, Sylvester's nephew. Sylvester had two brothers, who both worked with Chinese art and who each had a son. There was a falling out between the brothers and now they are each other's competition. Joliffe is a merry young man and Jane quickly falls in love with him. There is one episode that makes her doubt him a little, when she finds out that he had gone in the locked room (having secretly made a copy of the key long ago), took a newly discovered statue and had it examined for its value. Later the statue was back in it's place again. There is an ongoing search for a special statue of the Kuan Yin, a Chinese goddess. Jane gets married to Joliffe to the delight of her mother who knows she hasn't got long to live because she suffers from consumption, which she hides well from Jane. Jane and Joliffe spend their honeymoon in Paris, though Joliffe spends a little too much time with his friends there. Back in their London house, he neglects Jane even more as he needs to attend to business. While walking in the park, Jane notices a woman observing her during several days. Later this woman follows her home and tells her that she is Joliffes wife. She was in the Reading train accident and believed dead while she was recuperating from memory loss in the hospital. Joliffe thought she died and never told Jane about this because he didn't like to dwell on how as a youth he got so involved with a barmaid that he proposed marriage to her. Jane is devastated and leaves London for Roland's Croft. By then her mother is in hospital and she dies shortly thereafter. Mr. Sylvester Milner has been in a shooting accident and he is partly paralized and needs to walk with crutches. When Jane finds out she is pregnant, he proposes marriage. That way the child will be spared scandal, Jane can continue her work for him, and he has a son to be his heir. He is about 30 years Jane's senior and has never been married. This marriage works out great, although Jane can't forget her blissful days with Joliffe. Joliffe comes to Roland's Croft and wants to pick up where they left off, but Jane knows that's no way to repay Sylvester. Sylvester forbids him ever to come to Roland's Croft again. When her son, Jason, is six, Sylvester feels the urge to go back to China to see how his business is doing. He has a great manager, Tobias Grantham, to look after things, but he longs to get back. Sylvester has a house in Hong Kong named "The house of a thousand lanterns", which was a thankyou-gift from an important mandarin to Sylvester's grandfather. Apparently there is a treasure in the house, but no one has ever found it. Jane has been curious about this house from when she was a young girl and first heard its name mentioned. Though she finds the house very beautiful and interesting, she also finds it somewhat ominous. Sylvester's other nephew, Adam, is in Hong Kong also and though at first he thought Jane was a golddigger, he slowly starts warming up to her. He is nothing like his charming cousin Joliffe. Through Adam Jane gets a girl to help her with Jason and with talking to the Chinese, Lotus Blossom, quickly dubbed Lottie. She is an exquisitely beautiful part Chinese part English girl of 15 years old, and Jane likes her very much. Together they visit their neighbour, Chan Cho Lan, a beautiful lady. Both their houses are exactly the same, though Sylvesters house has lanterns and hers hasn't. Sylvesters house was built on the ruins of a temple to Kuan Yin and there's a lot of talk about the goddess being angry about having foreign devils living in that spot. Then Joliffe, now a widower, returns to Hong Kong and starts pursuing Jane again, mostly seeking contact through Jason. Sylvester's health deteriorates and as he feels he is dying he changes his will in that Jane will inherit everything in trust for Jason till he is 21. If anything should befall Jane, Adam will be Jason's guardian. Clearly Sylvester doesn't trust Joliffe anymore. After Sylvesters death Jane suddenly has three suitors: Joliffe, Adam and Toby. As she doesn't want to remarry before the year of mourning is out, Joliffe returns to England promising to return in exactly one year's time. In the meantime Adam woos Jane and she likes him a little better. Jane doesn't let him interfere in the business, however, and she manages quite well on her own, with Toby's help. She learns more about her neighbour as well: Chan Cho Lan is some sort of matchmaker, both for marriages and for liaisons. She trains girls from a young age. Jane and Adam spend time looking for the treasure in the house, counting all the lanterns. They can only find 600. When Joliffe returns Jane knows there is no question of marrying anyone else but him, and they quickly wed. It isn't till after a while before she learns that Joliffe's wife did not die of an illness, as he claimed, but she killed herself by jumping out of the top window of the house. Joliffe asks that Jane goes to a lawyer to change Sylvester's stipulation that Adam be Jason's guardian if Jane should die, which she does. Adam isn't told about this, however. Then Jane starts feeling ill some days and the symptoms are exactly like Sylvester's before he died: listlessness, dizzyness, nightmares and sleepwalking. While sleepwalking Jane nearly kills herself by jumping out of a window, but she is rescued by Joliffe just in time. Lottie was there too. Lottie mentions the evil spirit of the house a lot, seeing lots of bad omens in things that happen. One day Chan Cho Lan shows Jane her own son, a little boy of mixed blood, and she hints that both Jason and her son might have the same father. Jane finds out that she has been drinking poisoned tea after Jason gets ill drinking two cups of her tea one afternoon. She pretends to still feel weak some days in order to be able to trap the person who dons a death dragon mask and scares her when she's having a nightmarish sleep. She runs after this person but loses him/her somewhere in the house. Then she finds a piece of the costume protruding from the wood panelling on the main floor. There appears to be some kind of cupboard in the wall where the mask and costume have been hidden. No secret passageway, though. All the while Jane gets more suspicious of Joliffe. She knows he's capable of doing wrong things, lying and keeping things from her. Adam is a suspect too, because he doesn't know he won't be Jason's guardian anymore if Jane dies. Jane confides in Toby who urges her to leave the house and go back to England. When Jane returns at the house, she can't find Jason. Lottie appears and says she has brought him to Chan Cho Lan to play with her son. Jane goes there too to fetch Jason and Chan Cho Lan leads her and Lottie to a secret passage, in the place where the hidden cupboard was in Jane's own house. There's a long corridor that eventually leads to a beautiful tomb in the old part of the temple beneath the House of a Thousand Lanterns. On the altar is the lost statue of the Kuan Yin. There Jane is left alone with a sedated Jason in a trunk. Through a grille Chan Cho Lan asks that she and Jason both kill themselves by drinking from poison provided in two vials on the altar. She explains everything: apparently she is a grandchild of the mandarin that gave the House of a Thousand Lanterns to Sylvester's grandfather who as a doctor had saved the mandarin's wife and child. The mandarin lived in the neighbour house but made a tomb for his beloved wife beneath the House of a Thousand Lanterns in the remains of the temple and visited her grave there regularly. Chan Cho Lan hated that foreigners lived in a house that should belong to her family and by killing Jane and Jason she thought the house could return to them. She thought Adam would inherit and as her son was also Adam's son he could get the house to live in eventually. Lottie was her daughter by Adam's father and as an obedient daughter gave Sylvester and Jane poison, tried to have Jane kill herself, frightened Jane through wearing the death dragon mask, and lure Jane to the neighbour house to be imprisoned. Religion prevented Chan Cho Lan from killing both of them herself, but urging them to kill themselves was all right. However, Lottie started feeling remorse and she went to get Joliffe who rescued Jane and Jason and they lived happily ever after. Chan Cho Lan killed herself and Lottie was excused and married off to a nice half Chinese young man. Jane decides the house should return to the Chinese and in due time Chan Cho Lan and Adam's son will get it. They leave the tomb in the temple with the Kuan Yin just as it was.
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#2
I would never have guessed that English was not your mother tongue, Charybdis, and I have read all of your posts!Smile I remember reading The House of a Thousand Lanterns in days gone by.
It has been a while since I re-read a Victoria Holt. I am thinking of soon trying The Shivering Sands. I remember enjoying it.
Reply
#3
Thank you. (Where's the blushing smilie?) Smile

I'm looking forward to rereading The Shivering Sands as well, though that is one of the few where I remember who the villain is. Luckily that's the first thing I forget after reading a novel, probably because you spend 99.9% of the time wondering who did it, which makes a longer lasting impression than the few minutes reading the finale.
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#4
What you say is true. It's funny how quickly I, too, can sometimes forget a villain's identity. (Unless I read a book more than once--I always remember then!)
I have always enjoyed reading mysteries (as well as gothics and other things), and when my memory fails me there I will re-read those that I remember enjoying as well. I've done this over the years with Agatha Christie stories, which I started reading at about fifteen years old. . . . Talk about nostalgia! How I love those Golden Age mysteries.Big Grin
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