THE WITCH ELM

by Tana French

A skull discovered in a backyard exposes a family's past. Read by Paul Nugent. 22 hours, 7 minutes unabridged.

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3 positive comments

1 neutral comments

1 negative comments

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  • My copy of Tana French's new book is out for delivery. Please excuse me while I lock myself in my room and read. >>… https://t.co/kiPcw6J95A
  • I loved this book so much. Best book of 2018. 😍 The Witch Elm: A Novel https://t.co/caKxuDxqb0
  • @MarianKeyes I love the build up to a new Tana French book release almost as much as I love reading the book itself… https://t.co/rZAzktyGrc
  • I am reading Tana French's latest, The Witch Elm, and thinking about how a review headline to the effect of "This b… https://t.co/7E7YgOfnwL
  • But I'm fucking loving Her Body and Other Parties so far, so hopefully it goes fast and I can do Alice Isn't Dead,… https://t.co/7L8W4mSY9R
  • 21 positive comments

    14 neutral comments

    31 negative comments

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    What people are saying on Amazon (sample)

    • So many twists. By the end of the book it shows that just one little thing you do, that you think may be harmless, can turn into so much more and how it impacts others lives.
    • Quick deliveryNo damage
    • Great story, lots of twists. If you like psychological thrillers that are exceptionally well written, you will enjoy this book.
    • The Witch Elm by Tana French is a very highly recommended crime novel of privilege, healing after a trauma, family, and, incidentally, a murder.Toby Hennessy knows he is an attractive, lucky guy - things just seem to always work out for him or he can charm his way out of the problem. After a night out with his friends, he awakens to find two burglars in his home. They don't run when Toby confronts them, instead they beat him senseless and leave him for dead. Toby would have died too, but with his luck he is found and taken to the hospital just in the nick of time. Now, as Toby is recovering, he is beginning to understand that this crime has changed his life drastically. Physically, he has a bad arm and leg, a droopy eye, and may be subject to seizures and the trauma has left him unable to remember events and words; he can't work and has difficulty sleeping or relaxing in his home.At first Toby bulks at his cousin's suggestion that he goes to stay at the Ivy House with his Uncle Hugo, who is in the last stages of brain cancer and needs someone to look after him, but then he acquiesces and he and his girlfriend Melissa move in. It seems that staying there helping Hugo may be helping Toby slowly recover. But when a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden, it looks like there is now going to be a murder investigation along with the investigation into his attackers.The Witch Elm is an excellent novel. The writing is impeccable. The plot, along with multiple subplots, is perfectly presented and arranged, with an insight and astuteness for detail, character development, a sense of place, and the advancement of the action. The character development is detailed, intricate, and manages to capture the strengths and flaws of human nature as a matter of course. This is truly a character-driven novel, with Toby the focus, but all the characters have an essential depth and complexity to them.Admittedly, Toby can be kind of a privileged jerk. He never really thought about the bad side of human nature before because he has always been lucky or able to charm his way through problems. What might turn out bad for others never has been that way for Toby until now - and it is a dramatic wake-up call for him. Now he is open to judgement on his slurred speech, awkward gait, loss of memory, and altered facial structure. A large part of the novel is wondering if it is possible for Toby to recover from his trauma.Fans of French's Dublin Murder Squad novels may need to set aside their expectations and enjoy The Witch Elm as a marvelous stand-alone novel from an admirable writer.Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.
    • When you consider reading a book, you might do well to first ask yourself a couple of questions. Such as, “Am I in the mood for a quick read? A read that doesn’t require me to stop and think over what I just learned about the main character or as to what I would do in a similar circumstance? In “The Witch Elm” we have a character-driven absorbing read that will, on occasion, challenge you. Folks looking for a quick read, especially commuters, may want to look elsewhere.If you’re still here, welcome to my reading room…POV: First person, which imparts an intimacy that is needed by a tale such as this. Getting inside Toby’s head to learn how he experiences, and attempts to recover from, his fall is one of the major themes in this character-driven story.BLUSH FACTOR: To put it gently, unless your church group differs greatly from mine, you will NOT be reading this aloud to them. In fact, you’re more likely to disavow any knowledge of this book, even if you did read it in bed and keep it hidden from view by visitors.ADVENTURE: Yes, at least for me, as I’m a Yank. For people in the UK, I have no idea.THE WRITING: Friendly, intimate, chatty. Good flow and, dare I say, sway. Almost feel like it’s a waltz. Mind you, when I was younger I abhorred think books, which, at 528 pages or thereabouts, I would have run the other way to find a quicker read. I was the sort who decried the loss of trees for such books. Now, though, I’ve come to appreciate what additional pages really means – character development, asides that afford us time to view how the other half lives. Or, permit us to develop a one-on-one relationship with the narrator to appreciate how they can draw us in with a gentle tug here and there.In other words, if you’re looking for a quick read, this is liable to disappoint. It also, however, might draw you in to show you the value of what I stated above.GRAMMAR, EDITING & SUCH: This is a first-rate production by a premier writer. Bear in mind, though, this is written by a writer in the UK, so some terms might need a little interpretation to fully appreciate their meaning.CHARACTER: Watching how the writer brings Toby from a full, happy, lucky man downwards is engrossing.ExcerptThis excerpt comes from quite early in the story, so is free of what I consider spoilers, plus free of words that Amazon does not permit in reviews. This glimpse, however brief, will show a side of Toby that may dispel any prejudices in his favor. If that could annoy you, please pass on reading the excerpt.‘…hadn’t there been some coke left over from that Paddy’s Day party? But surely if they had been planning to give me hassle over that, they would have mentioned it by now— “How about your car?” Martin asked.“Oh,” I said. My car hadn’t even occurred to me. “Yeah. It’s a BMW coupe—I mean, it’s a few years old, but it’s probably still worth— Did they take it?”“They did, yeah,” Martin said. “Sorry. We’ve been keeping a lookout for it, but no joy yet.”“The insurance’ll sort you out, no problem,” Flashy Suit told me comfortingly. “We’ll give you a copy of the report.”“Where were the keys?” Martin asked.“In the living room. On the, the”—word gone again—“the sideboard.”He blew air out of the side of his mouth. “In full view of the windows, man. Ever leave the curtains open?”“Mostly. Yeah.”Martin grimaced. “You’ll know better next time, wha’? Did you have them open last Friday evening?”“I don’t—” Getting home, going to bed, everything in between, it was all blank, a black hole big enough that I didn’t even want to get near it—“I don’t remember.”“Did you have the car out that day?”It took me a moment, but: “No. I left it at home.” I had figured that, whatever happened with Richard, I was going to want a few pints.“In the car park in front of the building.”“Yeah.”“Do you drive it most days?”“Not really. Mostly I walk to work, if the weather’s OK, save the hassle of parking in town? But if it’s raining or, or I’m running late, then yeah, I drive. And if I go somewhere at the weekend. Maybe two days a week? Three?”“When was the last time you had it out?”“I guess—” I knew I had stayed home for a few days before that night, couldn’t remember exactly how long— “The beginning of that week? Monday?”Martin lifted an eyebrow, checking: You positive? “Monday?”“Maybe. I don’t remember. Maybe it was over the weekend.” I got where he was going with this. The car park was open to the road, no gate. Martin thought someone had scoped out my car, clocked me getting into it, watched the windows till he identified my apartment, and then come looking for the keys. In spite of the element of creepiness—me sprawled contentedly on my sofa eating crisps and watching TV, eyes at the dark crack between the curtains—I liked that theory, an awful lot better than I liked my Gouger one. Car thieves weren’t personal, and they were hardly likely to come back.“Anything else valuable?” Martin asked.“My laptop. My Xbox. I think that’s it. Did they—”“Yeah,” Flashy Suit said. “Your telly, too. That’s the standard stuff: easy to sell for a few bob. We’ll keep the serial numbers on file, if you’veFrench, Tana. The Witch Elm: A Novel (pp. 57-59). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.BOTTOM LINEAs other reviewers have stated, the story slows a bit during the development stage, but that I believe was an artistic decision and has nothing to do with why I’m taking a star away. Oh, and although there is some hint of sex in the romantic aspects of the story, there is nothing graphic, from my viewpoint. In fact, I might have preferred to see some. So, why four stars? The profanities and other slang are so numerous. Mind you, I agree with the decision to include rough street talk to set the tone. However, in my thinking, less can be more. Mostly though, I just want to ensure readers wishing to avoid such talk are properly alerted.Four stars out of five. Still, four stars is certainly a strong recommendation to read.I am striving to produce reviews that help you find books that you want, or avoid books that you wish to avoid. With your help, my improvement will help you and me improve book reviews on Amazon. Together, you and I can build a great customer review process that helps everybody. Will you join me? It is people such as you who have helped me improve over the years. I'm still learning, and I have a great deal yet to learn. With your help, I'll improve every day.One request: Be respectful and courteous in your comments and emails to me. I will do likewise with you.Thank you so much for indicating if this review helped you, or for your comment.