The Witch Elm
By: Tana French
# of pages: 464
Challenge: Monthly Motif (new to you author), Book Bingo
Quote: “The rain had started, a light unobtrusive patter, its shadows down the windowpane mottling the sill and the bare floorboards. I stayed there for a long time, watching the drops merge and course down the glass, picking two and betting on their race to the bottom, the way I had when I was a kid.”
Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.
Review: I saw a review about Tana French’s books and decided to check this one out after hearing it was good. French is a new-to-me author, so it counts for January’s Monthly Motif challenge. I enjoyed The Witch Elm so much that I’m planning to check out more of Tana French’s books soon!
I spent much of this book feeling amazed that the author could think of something so complex and keep it going for so long. The whole book is intricate – from the plot to the many characters. The story mainly follows Toby, a young man whose life is abruptly ruined when he’s attacked in his own home and almost killed.
Toby is an interesting character because the reader can’t help but like him and root for him, but also feel dislike for him at times. And honestly, don’t we all know people like Toby, people with the gift of gab and with enough luck to easily swim through life’s ups and downs? Sometimes you wonder what that person would do if something truly awful happened to them, something that would be difficult or impossible to talk their way out of or ignore. That’s partly what this book is about and I commend the author for writing her character so well and avoiding what was probably a temptation to dilute him and make him “better.”
I’m recovering from a surgery on my nasal passage to correct a deviated septum, so maybe that’s affected my thought process, but I couldn’t stop thinking of this book over the days I spent reading. I wanted so badly to figure out the mystery of the skull. I sort of figured it out, but that wasn’t even the main point of the book. The story took a weird turn at the end, but overall I enjoyed it thoroughly and would recommend it to adults who enjoy mysteries.
Why I gave this book 4/5 stars: Interesting plot, intricate and realistic characters, thought provoking.