Aaaahhhhhh you guys the semester is over! I’m finally able to read some fun fiction again, and thus, write some reviews. I really missed being able to do this, and I’m so glad to be back :). But anyways…to the review:
They are running into legend, into sleepover stories and nightmares parents never hear. Down the faint lost paths you would never find alone, skidding round the tumbled stone walls, they stream calls and shoelaces behind them like comet-trails. And who is it waiting on the riverbank with his hands in the willow branches, whose laughter tumbles swaying from a branch high above, whose face is in the undergrowth in the corner of your eye, built of light and leaf-shadow, there and gone in a blink?
What to say about this book? That I read it breathlessly in approximately 48 hours without looking up? That I thought about it all day while at work, that I couldn’t wait to return to it in my free hours? Or maybe something about how ultimately frustrating I found it? It’s shortcomings and cliches? I just don’t know. For some background information, the author, Tana French, has lived all over the world, but calls Ireland her home. In the Woods is set in the area around Dublin, and is the first in a series of (I think) five mystery novels that are all loosely related to its characters. I’ll definitely be checking out some of her later books, despite my mixed feelings about the first.
Plotwise, of course I don’t want to give too much away, especially since this is a mystery, but for what it’s worth: In the 1980s, three children disappear from a wood in a small town outside Dublin. Hours later, one child is found with someone else’s blood in his shoes, clawing his nails into a tree. He is never able to remember what happened that day, and the other two children are never found. 20 years later, the wood is being demolished to accommodate a major highway, and a group of archaeologists have been granted access to the site before construction begins. A murdered girl is found on the site, and the surviving child from 20 years ago, now grown up and a murder detective (who goes by a different name to avoid connection with his past), takes the case in the hopes that he might be able to figure out what happened to his friends all those years ago.
It’s kind of an intense plot, so I’m sure I butchered the explanation of it, but one important thing to know about the story is that both the book jacket and the early chapters suggest that these two cases are in some way intertwined, and that both will be solved by the end of the novel. They aren’t and they won’t. Checking goodreads, it seems like a lot of people had a definite problem with this. I feel a little conflicted, myself. I was definitely expecting some closure for both cases, and I felt the loss of this closure. Still, I think it’s pretty ballsy that French didn’t tie up all the ends neatly.
On the other hand, the plot sometimes feels disjointed, as if all the pieces don’t really flow together, and I don’t think this was intentional. There are a lot of lyrical, beautiful sentences and passages (like the one quoted at the beginning of this post), but they sometimes run up against what I can only describe as hardboiled cliches in a way that doesn’t read very well. That’s one thing to note: for all its beauty and originality, this book is straight full of cliches and stock characters. It’s a little annoying.
So I’ve rambled on a really long time about this book, and I need to stop already. One final thing. There are eerie, glancing references here to Irish folklore and mythology, as well as pagans and druids. The She Creature approves. You should probably read this. I’m not your dad or anything, but it’s definitely a fun book for summer. Jury’s still out on whether or not it’s any good, but it’s definitely intriguing.