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This, as I mentioned in my post the other day, was a re-read. The back cover describes it as “Miss Jean Brodie meets Donna Tartt”, which sums the plot up but doesn’t even come close to describing the delicious prose that Goodman uses to describe Heart Lake and its environs.

Following her divorce, Jane Hudson returns with her young daughter Olivia to the boarding school she attended as a child on scholarship, this time as a Latin teacher. She is following in the footsteps of Domina Helen Chambers, the charismatic Classicist who fascinated Jane and her friends Lucy and Deirdre, both of whom drowned in the lake during Jane’s final year there.

The Lake of Dead Languages is an eerie and accurate account of the hothousing that goes on in private girls’ schools, as well as a reminder that some things never change. Even the closest friendships have fissures that crack open when too much pressure is applied to them, and adolescent obsessions with sex and death are bewitching but ultimately dangerous. Recreational drug taking, witchcraft and Virgil proves to be a potent combination not only in Jane’s flashbacks to her own teenage years, but in the lives of Athena, Vesta and Aphrodite – three of Jane’s students who coincidentally share the same room that Jane, Lucy and Deirdre occupied.

As tragedy strikes Heart Lake and Jane is thrown back on painful memories of friendship, self-discovery and betrayal, it seems clear that the past is repeating itself – and that the story Jane told her teachers and loved ones all those years ago may not have been the whole truth. Pages from the journal she lost after Lucy’s death start reappearing, and it is clear that someone at Heart Lake knows more than she is letting on – but who?

Although Goodman’s plot twists are somewhat predictable (hint: if you have even a basic knowledge of Latin, the final revelation will come as less of a shock and more of a ‘you’re only just figuring that out?’), she manages to keep the tension spiralling until the final, climactic scene on the frozen lake.

Well worth a read.