The Wych Elm Hardcover – 21 Feb 2019
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Terrific - terrifying, amazing, and the prose is incandescent (Stephen King)
The finest crime writer around right now (Mail on Sunday)
Gripping and suspenseful, with more twists than a rollercoaster, The Wych Elm is a magnificent novel (John Boyne)
Her best book. Really, it is not a crime novel: as ever, Tana's scope is so much broader than that. It's a book about identity, childhood, luck and family...I absolutely loved it. (Gillian McAllister)
'I drop everything for a new Tana French book - feign illness, cancel plans and miss deadlines - and it's always worth it. The Wych Elm is her best novel yet...this mystery about family, memory and the cracks in both will haunt you for a long, long time' (Erin Kelly)
The new Tartt...every bit as good as The Secret History (The Times on 'The Secret Place')
Absolutely mesmerizing (Gillian Flynn)
Inspires cultic devotion in readers...most crime fiction is diverting; French's is consuming (The New Yorker)
French is a poet of mood and a master builder of plots (Maureen Corrigan The Washington Post)
A spectacularly talented writer (Louise O'Neill, author of 'Asking for It')
From the Inside Flap
One night changes everything for Toby Hennessey. 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.See all Product description
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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.
The plot revolves around the narrator, Toby, a good looking, intelligent young man from a comfortable, supportive family whose life so far has been an easy cruise, smoothed by circumstance and easy charm. However, at the very start of the book he suffers a head trauma which changes everything. This is followed by a grisly discovery in the garden of a family house; the police investigate and slowly a past of which Toby has been blissfully unaware begins to emerge.
This is a long book at over 500 pages and events unfold slowly, but it never dragged at all for me. French is brilliant at creating wholly believable characters and situations and her portrait of someone trying to come to terms with genuine struggle for the first time in his life is exceptionally good. Anyone who has had to watch someone they love go through a terminal illness will recognise that this, too, is superbly and sensitively done...and so on. And throughout all this runs an increasingly tense plot as Toby tries to piece events together. French writes lovely, unfussy but very evocative prose, and her ear for dialogue is superb, I think. I found it compulsively readable and utterly engrossing throughout.
In short, this is a very fine novel with crime as its driver but which is much, much more than just a thriller and is in a wholly different league from the usual “Gripping Psychological Thrillers.” It’s definitely one of my books of the year and very, very warmly recommended.
(My thanks to Penguin for an ARC via NetGalley.)