Get to the Point, Book Reviews: The Witch Elm

In this previous blog, I announced I would start writing book reviews. This will be a regular, but not frequent, blog series and will be titled as Get to the Point, Book Reviews.

Book Review Rules:
1. Get to the point.
– No drawn out hemming and hawing about recommending the book.
– The answer will either be “yes” or “no” followed up with points that are
relevant to the recommendation.

2. Honesty.
– No need for exaggeration or belaboring a point.
– I’m not into trashing authors or their works.

3. No Delving or Deep Diving
– I hate reading reviews where everything about a book is outlined, in which case, I become immediately disinclined to read the book for myself.
– I will leave room for discovery. Character names, situations, plot, etc. may or may not be a point of discussion.

The book may (or may not) work for me personally but that’s not to say it didn’t do wonders for (or fail) someone else.

The Witch Elm: A Novel, by Tana French

Would I recommend this book?

The Goods

1. I loved the concept. Growing up, it’s inevitable that at some point you become acquainted with hollowed trees. They’re fascinating in their own right, in life and in stories. What’s in there? A portal? Treasure? Magic? A body? In, The Witch Elm, you get the body and how and why it came to be there. I love the technical details involved in breaking down the murder, the disposal of the body, and the unfolding of it all 10-years after the fact. A lot of thought went into the murder. *It’s impressive but I’m not giving up the details because if you do read, The Witch Elm, you’ll want to experience those details on your own. *See rule #3.

2. This novel contains well-developed characters, or personalities, as I like to think of them. There are several characters, main, secondary, and background, and the author seems to have given each their fair weight. It seems a new standard to write personalities a little too thinly. I believe this is an effort to make the main character(s) more imprint-able for the reader. The more the reader can project upon the character(s) the more the reader is likely to engage in the story. Truly, I hate this style. I miss fully-fleshed characters and Tana French does not leave you wanting in this regard.

The Not So Good

1. This point is the the overall reason I don’t recommend the novel. It’s not the length of the novel that I disliked, it was the repetition. In my opinion, the repetition is what contributed, unnecessarily, to the length of the book.

There were several times where I had to stop reading convinced I had accidentally pressed the back button on my Kindle. I seemed to be rereading a thought, a passage, or a dialogue, not once, but several times. Reiteration was my biggest issue and it kept pulling me out of the story. There were times where continuing on with the book was a drudge.

This may not be a deal-breaker for some readers but it was for me. I felt every moment when I was pulled out of the story.

2. Languishing. It seems a lot of nothing is being described and then a little movement is interjected, followed by more unnecessary information. By the time things “heat up” the cooling down process is quick to follow. I would estimate the mystery kicks in 25-30% into the novel and is generally non-stop peaks and troughs throughout.

3. The MC, Toby, had an inner and external dialogue that occasionally read without real-person authenticity. The MCs language pattern might be best described as excessive? Superfluous? Sentences got clumsy in several places from word excess.

However, this does not happen throughout the novel. It occurred just enough to make me aware of it.

4. Ever see Lord of the Rings? Remember the multiple endings? Worked very well for the movie (you may disagree) but not so well here. There seemed to be several endings with the actual ending feeling tired, sad, and unnecessary. I think a Saprano-style ending would have done well for The Witch Elm. In other words, it just ends. Perhaps Toby learns the truth, experiences some sort of resolution, but does not feel any more secure for having learned it. The end.

5. Figuring out “who dun-it” came down to character observation. Two of the four murder suspects, from the beginning, weren’t murder suspects, at least not in my mind. This may be one of the let-down points of having fleshed-out characters. The main personalities were detailed so well that I knew who hadn’t done the deed, and who did. You, the reader, are set up for a twist but if you’re good at paying attention you’ll figure it out before the big reveal. Not that figuring out the “who dun-it” bit before the reveal is the goal, only I think it was a little obvious.

And that’s my two cents on The Witch Elm, A Novel, by Tana French. Did you read the book? Please, share your thoughts below.