Author: Tana French
Genre: General Fiction / Mystery & Thrillers
Format: Paperback 528 pages
Release Date: 21 February 2019
I would like to thank the publisher and the author for the opportunity to read this book via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
‘For me it all goes back to that night, the dark corroded hinge between before and after, the slipped-in sheet of trick glass that tints everything on one side in its own murky colours and leaves everything on the other luminous and untouchable.’
One night changes everything for Toby. He’s always led a charmed life – until a brutal attack leaves him damaged and traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at his family’s ancestral home, the Ivy House, filled with memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins.
But not long after Toby’s arrival, a discovery is made: a skull, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden.
As detectives begin to close in, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past, and himself.
A spellbinding standalone from a literary writer who turns the crime genre inside out, The Wych Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, if we no longer know who we are.
The book starts with Toby, our main character, out on a normal night out with friends, celebrating getting out of a potentially very sticky situation at work. He arrives home and is attacked by burglars and left beaten and broken on the floor. Physically he gets away seemingly lightly and seems to recover almost to what he once was. Psychologically however, is a very different story. He struggles immensely with his injuries and his inability to recall certain memories and participate in conversations in the quick witted manner he once was able.
This was a really intriguing book and I found it really interesting that the author focused on the psychological damage that Toby suffered after his attack. I haven’t read many books that focus on this aspect and she detailed his suffering in such detail I really felt for Toby and what he was experiencing. There are times though when Toby is portrayed as being over-privileged, verging on spoilt, having spent his entire life relying on luck to get by so I found myself with really conflicting emotions towards him.
This is a very long book with long chapters, and for me personally I felt it was a bit too long for the story it was telling. At times I felt like I was just reading and waiting for something to happen to re-engage me with the story. Having said that though, the entire way through the story there is a quiet, simmering, underlying tension which did keep me motivated to finish and find out just what would happen to Toby’s character.
I would suggest you need to invest some time to read this book, it’s not a ‘light’ read and not one I personally would say can be read in short chunks at a time. To get the most of it you really need to delve within the pages and get engrossed with Toby’s mindset.
About the Author
Tana French grew up in Ireland, Italy, the US and Malawi, and has lived in Dublin since 1990. She trained as an actress at Trinity College Dublin and worked in theatre, film and voiceover. She is the author of IN THE WOODS (winner of the Edgar, Anthony, Barry, Macavity and IVCA Clarion awards), THE LIKENESS, FAITHFUL PLACE, BROKEN HARBOUR (winner of the LA Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller and the Irish Book Award for Best Crime Fiction) and THE SECRET PLACE. She lives in Dublin with her husband and two children.
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