The Wych Elm - Tana French

November 26, 2018

4 / 5 Stars 

 

Five stars for a compelling, beautifully written story, three stars for a lot of waffling. So we'll go with a four!

Well, this is a hard book to review! On the one hand, I adored the story, the characterisation, the intricacy of the life created in it. On the other hand, I felt the editor should have sliced it down by at least a third...

 

The story is all about Toby, who is a bit of a jack-the-lad, working in an art gallery, with a nice girlfriend and basically, has a perfect life. Until the break-in, that is.

After a long time in hospital, he decides to go and stay with his dying Uncle at the Ivy House. He spent a lot of time there as a child with his cousins, Susannah and Leon, though their relationship wasn't always smooth-running. It transpires, they all have some rather dark secrets... but you know what they say, family ALWAYS stick together, regardless of what happens...

Let's start with what was excellent about the story - the narrative itself. I was totally sucked into Toby's life; I felt I knew him inside-out, he was that richly conveyed. His reactions, his actions, they all made sense, and never once did I find myself questioning it. I was also compelled to keep reading (which given the editing was quite a feat... more on that later). 

Although the plot itself was fairly standard 'whodunnit' mystery-fare, this was elevated by the quality of the writing. I really appreciated the richness of the characters, and felt genuinely attached to many of them. The little nuances were also beautifully conveyed; for example, what it feels like to be in hospital, or how annoying some children can be on occasion (ha!). 

However, there were several times when my patience was stretched significantly, because scenes just went on for too long. The editor really could have done with slicing out at least a quarter of the book, and it would have been far stronger for it. For example, when Toby was in hospital, it was gorgeously written, but just drifted on and on without any real benefit to the story, which detracted from the awesome prose. 

But it's testament to the author's ability to spin a yarn that I continued reading on. Overall, a good, enjoyable read.

 

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