Thursday, June 11, 2015

Throwback Thursday #4 - The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
Pages: 390
Publisher: Ballantine
Publication Date: January 2, 2002
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Source: Purchased

Synopsis (from Goodreads): In the evocative tradition of Donna Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History,comes this accomplished debut of youthful innocence drowned by dark sins. Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson left the Heart Lake School for Girls in the Adirondacks after a terrible tragedy. Now she has returned to the placid, isolated shores of the lakeside school as a Latin teacher, recently separated and hoping to make a fresh start with her young daughter. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories that will become a living nightmare.

Since freshman year, Jane and her two roommates, Lucy Toller and Deirdre Hall, were inseparable–studying the classics, performing school girl rituals on the lake, and sneaking out after curfew to meet Lucy’s charismatic brother Matt. However, the last winter before graduation, everything changed. For in that sheltered, ice-encrusted wonderland, three lives were taken, all victims of senseless suicide. Only Jane was left to carry the burden of a mystery that has stayed hidden for more than two decades in the dark depths of Heart Lake. 

Now pages from Jane’s missing journal, written during that tragic time, have reappeared, revealing shocking, long-buried secrets. And suddenly, young, troubled girls are beginning to die again . . . as piece by piece the shattering truth slowly floats to the surface.

Why I love it: The first time I read this book was in the spring of my junior year of high school. I can't remember if I picked up a copy of the book at the library or in a bookstore (my compulsive book buying dates back quite a ways), but I do know that I could barely put it down. I typically don't read books that make me leave a light on at night, but this is a long-time favorite of mine anyway. To a hardcore reader of thriller/suspense, this would probably be pretty tame by comparison. Goodman does a wonderful job describing the school and its surroundings; the book is set in upstate New York, which really isn't very different from New England, where I went to high school. The Heart Lake School for Girls is a boarding school, which just sounded so wonderful to live-at-home-for-high-school Sarah.

I should mention, even though it will undoubtedly remove any questions regarding my dorkiness, that this is the book that ultimately got me interested in Classical languages and literature. Not only is the MC a Latin teacher, but the girls in her classroom go by names of the Roman goddesses and other mythological characters. Obviously, I had to drop Spanish for my senior year (a decision toward which I was already leaning, to be honest) and take up Latin instead. It was an excellent decision, really. I ended up taking another semester of Latin in college, a semester of Ancient Greek, and quite a few Classical lit courses in the English department. My life would be indescribably different had I not read this book, which I know seems pretty heavy to pin on a novel. Not necessarily because the book has had an overly-strong influence on my life, but more because of the series of life decisions I made, starting with that first Latin class.

So whether you enjoy Classical allusions, boarding school settings, or a good mystery, The Lake of Dead Languages definitely gets my recommendation.


  1. Oh man. I really should get back to doing this. Lord knows I have enough old, unread books in the basement. Sigh.

    1. Haha good luck with the basement books!!

  2. I love hearing about books that change your life.It is such an awesome event and I always hope and wish that people who aren't readers could hear stories like these and pick up a book!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

    1. I agree! And whenever a non-reader tells me that they just don't like reading books, I always tell them that they just haven't yet found the right one to set them off.