Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Black Lake” as Want to Read:
Black Lake
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Black Lake

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  312 ratings  ·  78 reviews
A debut novel about a family losing grip of its legacy: a majestic house on the cliffs of Ireland.

The Campbells have lived happily at Dulough -- an idyllic, rambling estate isolated on the Irish seaside -- for generations. But upkeep has drained the family coffers, and so John Campbell must be bold: to keep Dulough, he will open its doors to the public as a museum. He and
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 20th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company (first published May 1st 2014)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Black Lake, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Black Lake

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  312 ratings  ·  78 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Black Lake
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2017
I enjoyed this quiet atmospheric debut novel about a Donegal house and the family that live there. Dulough (Gaelic for Black Lake) is a house with delusions of grandeur built by an unscrupulous Scotsman (Philip the First) in the 19th century, in the shadow of Donegal's highest mountains Errigal and Dooish by a black lake near the sea.

Most of the book takes place in the recent past. The current owner of the house is John, who is unable to maintain the house and is forced to accept a deal with th
Diane S ☔
Jun 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
3.5 The castle of Dulough, located on the sea in Northern Ireland in Donegal is the setting for this novel. The Campbell have lived here for generations, after the house was built by a not very nice ancestor. It is told in four voices, the voices of the family now, living there. John Campbell can no longer keep up with the cost of running the estate and though he maintains ownership, the family moves to a cottage on the property and he opens the castle to visitors.

When one's whole identity is as
May 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Black Lake by Johanna Lane was published on 1 May 2014 by Tinder Press and is the author's first novel.

The story is set on the fictional estate of Dulough, situated deep in the desolate countryside of County Donegal in Ireland. Dulough was built in the mid 1800s by an incomer; Scottish landowner Philip Campbell. Campbell built the house and gardens in this spot after searching for the ideal place, he cruelly evicted the tenant farmers who had previously toiled on the land, not caring where they
Margaret Madden
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ireland. A home. A childhood lost.

The Campbell family have lived in Dunlough for generations. A large stately home and estate in Co. Donegal, it is steeped with history and memories. When John Campbell realises that he can no longer afford to maintain such a large house, he decides to open the house to the public and move into a small cottage on the property. This is a difficult move for his wife, Marianne and his two children Kate and Philip. Watching the moving men transfer their antique furni
Feb 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Johanna Lane’s Black Lake is moody, atmospheric, compelling and strange. At just over 200 pages, it’s a slim novel that still packs a wallop — mostly because of Lane’s interesting storytelling. We know right away a tragedy has befallen the family, and it’s easy to determine what’s transpired. It’s another 100 pages until the truth is finally revealed, however, and when it is? It’s almost like an afterthought. Stated as fact.

That actually worked for me. Really well.

The core of this story is a fou
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Loving stories about old houses, and the families which live in them, Black Lake by Johanna Lane piqued my interest as soon as I spotted its blurb on my local library catalogue. Despite Ireland being a country that I love to visit, I have found of late that barely any Irish literature has made its way onto my yearly reading lists. Of course, I wanted to rectify this, and again, Black Lake ticked that box.

The Irish Examiner calls the novel: 'A complex and beautifully structured story', and the Ir
Mar 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Dulough is the mysterious house at the heart of this debut novel from Johanna Lane. The house is fictional but the setting reminds me of one of my favourite locations in Donegal, Dunlewey Lough at the foot of Mt Errigal overlooking the Poisoned Glen. In Black Lake this already wild landscape is battered by the winds coming off the Atlantic. There is a savage aspect to the environment, a primitive, ancient ambience dating back to the Ice Age.

The Campbells are relative newcomers, the first of thei
May 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm sorry to say this is one of those books I enjoyed reading about, more than actually reading. The writing wasn't terrible, I did enjoy the atmosphere and the history of the island. The storyline felt a bit confused and was terribly anti-climactic.

**I received a free copy of this book through a GoodReads First Reads giveaway.
Jackie Law
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Black Lake, by Johanna Lane, is a story of a place and the effect it has on a family. Set in the fictional Dulough estate in remote Donegal, which the author has loosely based on Glenveagh, its beauty and isolation have been ingrained in the psyches of each member of the resident family. At the time of the tale they are being forced to move from the big house to a small cottage in the grounds for financial reasons. The estate is to be opened up for tourists. The effect that this change has on ea ...more
Feb 28, 2014 rated it liked it
I received this book from Goodreads' First Reads program.

This was well-written, and fairly entertaining. And yet it never really felt like it had all that much substance, to me. The problem, really, is that nothing really happens. You know what the problem is right from the beginning, exactly what all the conflicts are going to be. There is nothing surprising at all in the book, not even really anything personal-secret-wise or in character quirks we learn through changed views. There's just... n
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways, so-sad
The Campbell family has run out of money and have nearly lost the family estate. In an effort to maintain ownership they agree with the government to turn the house into a tourist attraction, while the family downsizes to the cottage by the lake.

The novel outlines the devastating effects of the move, a traumatic chain reaction, resulting in unbearable loss. Told from the perspective of each of the four family members effected, a wonderfully written account of a man bent on keeping tradition at t
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A poignant tale that leaves the reader with heartache. An intimate journey through the lives of an Irish family who are losing the family heritage of a castle which had been in the family for generations. Told through the eyes of the husband, wife and their two children, the story is compelling and heart rending. The "voices" of each character lend it an aura of reality which captivates the reader. Well worth the quick read. ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction

Lane is a masterful dancer. She leads off with a chapter in which it is clear that things in the lives of the Campbell family are a mess. Then she leads us back, to slowly explore how things fell apart, giving each character time to step to the front of the stage and tell her tale. It is a beautiful dance of a book.

Cherry Goh
May 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
A slow moving, atmospheric read about the Campbell family. This novel was well structured and opened with an intriguing first chapter of a mother and daughter hiding out in the ballroom of a grand family mansion- Dulough. Then the following chapters tell the story of what happened in the previous year that lead up to what I perceive to be the climax of the story. The author crafted Dulough and the surrounding area vividly through descriptive prose, and the presence of the house and its history l ...more
Heidi | Paper Safari Book Blog
This is the story of a family consumed and destroyed by a house that they supposedly love. The house although it is not a person is a big character in the book for without the house this family wouldn't be who they are.

John Campbell inherits Dulough castle but its care and upkeep take a toll on the family finances leading him to turn the castle over to the state to help with the upkeep although they retain ownership. The family moves into the caretakers house as the house undergoes changes and v
Jan 19, 2021 rated it liked it
Marianne is a bubbly, friendly girl from Dublin. John is from a remote estate, isolated on the Irish seaside near Dulough. They marry and move to his family home where Marianne assumes the estate is independently wealthy. Unfortunately, John chooses not to tell her the upkeep costs exceed the income and the money is slowly dwindling. In order to keep the estate, he allows the mansion to become a museum. John chooses not to discuss his decision with Marianne or prepare his children for the radica ...more
Anna Sobotka
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I sad family drama that features the Irish landscape nearly as much as the characters. I enjoyed listening to it, but it didn't dig into me deep enough for me to give it a higher rating. I wish there had been more from the mother and daughter's perspective, because they had the least space as narrators, but their perspectives, I think, are just as necessary as the father and son's.

I did enjoy the quiet nature of the book; there isn't much action, and some of the most important action r
Garnet Walters
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked this book even if it didn't live up to the promise of the first few pages. It was low-key so I never quite felt the sadness that I should have. I also would have liked to have heard some of the story from the perspective of the daughter, she felt like a missing voice. Sad and bleak but not moving enough. ...more
Tracy Dishman
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
One of the dullest books I have ever read.
Julie Rutledge
Accidentally ordered at library- sad little tale
Black Lake, Johanna Lane
Little, Brown & Company
Submitted by the publisher
$25.00, 224 pgs

“…there had to be unsaid things between husbands and wives, and he had learnt that, though these were the things that saved you, they separated you too.” - John Campbell

The main character in Black Lake by Johanna Lane is not a person; it’s a house. But the word “house” doesn’t do justice to Dulough. A castle estate set on the Irish cliffs of the North Atlantic, Dulough is a concept. The Camp
Black Lake is a quiet novel. The tragedy has already occurred at the beginning of the story, so it is just a matter of the various narrators sharing their stories about the tragedy and its aftermath. This reduces the suspense of the novel in part because the tragedy itself is not the main scenario of the story. Rather, it is just one more result from the actions John takes to protect his family’s legacy. In fact, the whole book revolves around the consequences of that one decision for each famil ...more
Sam Still Reading
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those looking for a wonderfully atmospheric book
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: sent to me by publisher - thank you!
Black Lake contains many of the plot elements that I look for in a moody autumn read: big house, failing family dynamics, a creepy history and a moody landscape. Don’t be put off by the slim size of Johanna Lane’s debut novel – there’s enough in Black Lake to have you pondering while savouring every chapter. This is not a book to be read lightly, you’ll want to analyse every statement and reaction by the characters.

Black Lake is the story of the Campbell family, who own and live in Dulough, a ma
Deeply lovely, deeply sad - Black Lake by Johanna Lane [This book was provided to me for the price of No Monies by the kind people at Tinder Press facilitated in this act of munificent generosity by Bookbridgr]
I knew this book was going to be good because my Mammy attempted to yoink it from me within seconds of its arrival. Yup - this one's a hard copy and I will begin by giving a big thumbs up to the designer Kapo Ng for the cover. It might not look like much in the picture, but that typograph
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
It was a good read, but it feels like it could have been more fleshed out. It's like it was the skeleton of the story. Needed much more to it. Good book, though. ...more
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
[This book was provided to me for the price of No Monies by the kind people at Tinder Press facilitated in this act of munificent generosity by Bookbridgr]

I knew this book was going to be good because my Mammy attempted to yoink it from me within seconds of its arrival. Yup - this one's a hard copy and I will begin by giving a big thumbs up to the designer Kapo Ng for the cover. It might not look like much in the picture, but that typography goes straight to my appreciation centres. They're nea
Debbie Kinsey
Black Lake begins with the end. Marianne takes her daughter, Kate, out of school and then locks herself and her daughter in a never-finished ballroom in the grand manor house they used to live in. We quickly learn Kate’s brother Philip has died. After a number of weeks, the door is broken down and Marianne is taken away. The following chapters flash back to the spring before, told mostly from the perspective of John, her husband, and Philip, though Marianne also has a chapter about two-thirds of ...more
Genevieve Burgess
Nov 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, books-by-women
Black Lake is about a family that must move out of their estate home in Donegal, Ireland and open it to tourists in order to save the property. The novel explores how the family members cope with this upheaval, as well as another tragedy that takes place at the same time. While I enjoyed this central concept and felt that it was explored fairly well, the family themselves fell flat for me. It's a short novel, and each family member gets to have a say, so we learn enough about them to understand ...more
Charlotte (Escapades of a Bookworm)
Reviews can also be found on my blog Escapades of a Bookworm

The identity of the Campbells is tied up in Dulough House but now everything is about to change and the life that they once lived is now tantalizingly out of reach in the past.

Black Lake is a simple atmospheric story. There is a lot of description about the house, the grounds it stands on and the characters themselves. There is a whole history within those walls and Campbells are only a small part of its history.

This was a beautifully w
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was asked to review this by the publication date (end of May) and I had read it by then but froze up when trying to think of what to say about this book. It's one that deserves reflection and pieces of it will stay with the reader for a long time.

Have you heard of the Piatt Castles? They're in a serene part of Ohio and one of the castles was opened up for tours in 1912 while the family was still living in it. The Piatt family certainly had its ups and downs. If there were any tragedies like th
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • We Remember the Coming of the White Man: Dene Elders Tell the History of Their Times
  • The Beauty of Your Face
  • Riviera Gold (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #16)
  • Noah's Compass
  • The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett Summary  Study Guide
  • The Magician's Assistant
  • Chocolate Covered Murder (A Lucy Stone Mystery, #18)
  • Not Perfect
  • Girl in Snow
  • The Restaurant Critic's Wife
  • Heat Wave
  • The Boy in the Photo
  • The Prayer Box (Carolina Heirlooms #1)
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
  • Winter's Mourn (Winter Black #1)
  • The Evening Chorus
  • The Stylist
  • Breakfast in Bed (Bed & Breakfast #1)
See similar books…
Johanna Lane was brought up in Ireland, studied English Literature at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and Creative Writing at Columbia's MFA program. She lives in New York City. ...more

News & Interviews

  If you listen to NPR regularly, you’ve likely heard the voice of Shankar Vedantam, the longtime science correspondent and host of the radio...
16 likes · 3 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »