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The Lake of Dead Languages
ISBN 0345450884 / 9780345450883 / 0-345-45088-4
Publisher Ballantine Books
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Penzler Pick, February 2002: It has been 20 years since Jane Hudson graduated from Heart Lake School in the Adirondacks. After marrying, having a child, and separating from her husband, she returns to her old, all-girls school to teach Latin.
Heart Lake, like many schools, has its legends, the most persistent being that the lake claims the lives of students. All three daughters of the founder of the school were drowned in it, and while the bodies were never found, it is said that three rocks rose out of the water to lure young girls to their doom. Jane is more than aware of this legend. When she was at school, two of her contemporaries drowned in the lake, and Jane has always felt that it was looking for a third victim--herself.
While she does not discuss this with her students, she is aware that they know of the legend. Her three most promising students room together, are close to each other, and look on Jane as their special teacher, a situation that mirrors Jane's experience as a student. But soon Jane is into a routine, has renewed her acquaintance with teachers, now colleagues, who are still at Heart Lake, and has met other teachers new to her.
But when a portion of her journal is left for her to see, Jane is puzzled. She has not seen the journal since she left school. Then one of her students almost drowns in what appears to be a suicide attempt, and Jane realizes that the nightmare she lived through at school may be recurring.
Jane tries to piece together what really happened in her school days and what is happening now. As a young girl, Jane was poor and managed to get to Heart Lake because she won a scholarship. She was befriended by the charismatic Lucy and her brother Matt, and it is with Lucy that she roomed, together with Deirdre. The three girls bonded with their Latin teacher, Helen Chambers. As we learn more about Jane's school days and contrast it with what is happening 20 years later, it becomes obvious that history is repeating itself--or someone is trying to make it seem that way.
While it takes a while for the pieces to fall into place, this compelling first novel is as much about the charged atmosphere of adolescents and their new and sometimes dangerous emotions as it is about what exactly is happening at Heart Lake School and why. You will want to know the answers. --Otto Penzler [via]