Book Review: The Wych Elm by Tana French

March 28, 2019 Book review 2 ★★★★

This review for The Wych Elm by Tana French might sound a bit disjointed. I’m a HUGE Tana French fangirl, and I’ll chat all night about her characters, the moral dilemmas they face, and her GORGEOUS writing. But I simultaneously enjoyed this book, while also feeling a bit deflated after reading it.

Book Review: The Wych Elm by Tana FrenchThe Wych Elm by Tana French
Published by Viking on February 21, 2019
Genres: Mystery & Detective, Psychological, Suspense
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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. A brutal attack leaves him traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at the family's ancestral home, the Ivy House, filled with cherished 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.

!@#$ CRIME Murder Mystery Well Written

My Thoughts on The Wych Elm by Tana French

Ok, first up is a heads up. This is very much a slow burn, the scene is laid out for us very, very slowly. Which doesn’t hugely bother me. I adore her lush writing and I love letting her words soak into my heart and soul.

I really enjoyed the mystery, and appreciated the complexity of it. The main character is a happy-go-lucky chap, but the more time I spent with him the more I disliked him. Because underneath that friendly front, he is a privileged self-absorbed asshole. Despite that I was still rooting for him. Tana French knows how to take my feelings, and make a stir fry out of them!

Toby made me want to hug him, and scream at him. And now I don’t know how I feel. I want to hate him, and I definitely hate the things he participated in, and his lack of ability to stand up for what’s right. But I also walked along in his shoes with him, and did feel empathy for him. And even liked him at times.

You see what I mean? Tana French’s characters are never straightforward. They are tricky, and I love the shades of grey that colour them. And I had exactly the same feelings about all his cousins. I loved that book explored themes of identity and privilege from different angles, and it definitely made me ponder on that theme a lot while reading.

“Honestly it wasn’t Susanna I was tired of, not really; it was me, wronged innocent, white knight, cunning investigator, killer, selfish oblivious dick, petty provocateur, take your pick, what does it matter? it’ll all change again” 

I did feel a bit disappointed that it’s not one of the Dublin Murder Squad books, as I love that team. I missed their relentless detective skills. And it was a very different reading experience to be following from the victims point of view. Not bad, just different.

"Tana French knows how to take my feelings, and make a stir fry out of them!" #bookreview #thewychelm @PenguinIEBooks Click To Tweet

Overall I’d say, this is not the best Tana French book to start with (try The Likeness), but it is well worth reading. And it somewhat satisfied my craving for a new book from her. Now to commence the painful wait for another one. 

Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: four-stars

Who should read The Wych Elm by Tana French

I know I’m not raving about this book, but only because I have such high expectations from Tana French. If this was any other author, I’d probably be thrilled about it, as it’s such a creative book. I do highly recommend it, (but read her other books too), and expect a SLOW BURN. I recommend this to you if like lyrical writing, well developed characters, and if you like books where nothing is black and white. Fans of The Secret Place, Run Away by Harlan Coben and Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood might also enjoy.


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2 Responses to “Book Review: The Wych Elm by Tana French”

    • trish

      Book 2 in the Dublin Murder Squad is The Likeness. I adore that book and reread it every year. Hope you get to read it soon!

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