Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.
I don’t think it’s any surprise to say that I absolutely loved this book.
First, let’s address some things:
- this is a standalone
- it’s a “slow burn”
- but it’s absolutely bloody brilliant
Standalone — The Ending . . . ? (no spoilers)
Yes! This book, unlike the rest of French’s work, is a standalone. I was slightly nervous about this. The idea that there would (probably) be no more of these characters or “world” once the final sentence was read kind of scared me. What if she didn’t wrap it up well?
Why did I ever doubt?
This book . . . let me just say that this book has one of the tightest, most mind-reeling endings I’ve read in a very, very long time. There could have been a more perfect ending for this work.
This book was not her best rated on Goodreads, because a lot of people complained that the plot didn’t start or pick up until page 250 and because the main character is an ass.
I would argue that they are wrong and that it being a “slow burn” (though I wouldn’t say that, and I’ll explain why in a second) is what makes this possibly French’s best work to date.
The first part of this book is a very, very deep character development-type device that French is a master of. Sure, she could have condensed everything you read up to page 250 into a cool 50 pages, but, I will scream this so the people int he back can hear, YOU CANNOT BUILD A HOUSE WITHOUT A FOUNDATION!!!! I will tell you that I was never once bored when reading this book. Getting to know Toby, his family and the people around him are what make the rest of this and the ending so impactful.
French is a master at this, people! Trust in her skills.
This Book is Bloody Brilliant
No, I am not British.
BUT THIS BOOK IS ABSOLUTELY BLOODY BRILLIANT.
Am I biased since I have a previously liking to the rest of French’s works? I don’t think so.
This book is so smart, from beginning to end. Even if you figure out the “who”, I guarantee you will not figure out the “why”. And, if for some miraculous reason you do figure that out, I bet you won’t figure out what happens at the end.
French is setting you up. The second you read that first paragraph, you’re trapped, because the last one will have you screaming.
This could possibly be French’s best work to date. If you have not read anything by her yet, please, what are you doing?!?! I implore you: READ THIS ONE!
Have you read anything by Tana French? Have you read The Witch Elm? Let’s chat in the comments!