All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

In The Woods – Tana French

on May 30, 2010

So, I’d been reading a lot of stellar reviews of Tana French books around the book blogs I read and last time I was in Borders, I picked up both her debut novel (this one) In The Woods and the one I actually really wanted to read, The Likeness, which I realised contained at least some of the same characters as In The Woods, so I figured I’d better read this one first.

Brief plotline of In The Woods: Detective Rob Ryan is with the Murder Squad in Ireland. Twenty-something years ago, Ryan was actually Adam Ryan and he and his 2 friends were spending the summer playing in the woods (like the title, see?) near their home, playing games and having fun like 12 year olds do. Then one day, those 3 kids go into the woods to play and do not return. A major search is organised and Adam Ryan is found, clinging to a tree, catatonic. He cannot speak and doesn’t speak, for several weeks. When he finally does regain speech, he cannot remember anything of that day up until after he was found and even his memories before that day, of his whole life, are distant and patchy. Nothing the police do can get him to remember and his parents transfer him to an English boarding school under his middle name Robert, so he can get on with his life. Fast-forward those years later and he’s the murder detective who receives the case when the body of a 12yr old girl is found, so very close to where he himself was found all those years ago.

So there are essentially, two plot lines interwoven in this book. The first one, that of Ryan himself and what happened to him and his friends, was for me, by far the most interesting of the two. All the mystery and the fact that the bodies of his 2 friends were never found, his complete lack of memory, the blood in his shoes, the scratch marks on his shirt – I couldn’t even begin to imagine what had happened that day and I was so so eager to find out. Then there is the second plot of the murdered girl Katharine, and how Ryan deals with being back in his old childhood hometown and how he handles the investigation.

The thing about Tana French is that she writes so amazingly beautifully. I have read this everywhere in reviews and it only took a handful of pages of In The Woods to see it. I loved the prose, everything was so elegant and so vividly written that I lost track of time. I could see everything she was talking about, I was there. I loved the character of Ryan, so amazingly flawed, so damaged without even seeming to realise it himself. His relationship, both professional and personal with his partner Cassie is so intimate and fluid but I actually had no trouble believing they were that close and connected. I enjoyed the scenes between them, and although I did spend some time trying to figure out if they were secretly in love, it was not, for me, in any way, a major part of the book. Even when the cracks started to show, I had hope that things would all come out okay for them. And that in the end, their worlds would be the way they were.

I’m avoiding spoilering the heck out of this, because it’s a book that I think should be read blind – go into it knowing only what the back of the book tells you. But if you love your endings neatly tied up in a bow and presented to you atop a gift wrapped present (like me, as I’ve mentioned previously) then this book will test you. I was gravely disappointed when I reached the final page, but now I’ve had several days to think about it and I think that possibly, it’s braver to do what she did, then wrap it all up. It’s sunk in now and I’ve spent days and days thinking about the repercussions of the events in the book for the characters and usually I don’t give them that much thought once I’ve closed the book, confident they all live Happily Ever After. But these characters, the events and tragedies in this book have stayed in my mind and I’m still mulling them over, making up things in my head, changing my mind and making up other things. And for once, the lack of closure doesn’t bother me as much as it normally would’ve.


(Book #26 of my 50 Book Challenge)

7 responses to “In The Woods – Tana French

  1. […] Ireland speak! According to the little scale I’m already at Shamrock level – 2 books! In The Woods and The Likeness by Tana French are both set in Ireland and meet the requirements of the challenge. […]

  2. Carrie K. says:

    I’m with you – I was disappointed big time in the ending. So much so that it took me a long time to want to pick up The Likeness, but I’m sure glad I did.

  3. jackieinpdx says:

    I read Faithful Place and fell in love with Tana’s writing. Before I was finished reading it I went to Barnes and Noble and bought In the Woods and The Likeness. I wish that I had not read Faithful Pace first. I would have liked to met Frank Mackey in The Likeness before reading his story. What I like about Tana’s writing is that she can tell a story in first person as a man or a woman equally convincingly. After reading all three books I still am thinking about the characters and their lives days later. While reading the books I started to think in Irish slang and swear words that’s how wrapped up I became in the stories.

  4. Mouse says:

    I liked the way she wrote too and I’ll get to The Likeness at some point. But right now I still feel sad about the way things were left with the characters and plot in In the Woods. I thought about them pretty frequently after I put the book down, too.

  5. […] Book of 2010: We Need To Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver, In The Woods, by Tana French, The Passage, by Justin Cronin, The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver, Still […]

  6. […] In The Woods, by Tana French. A riveting storyline, intriguing characters, wonderful prose…and of course the godforsaken ending where we all just have to pretend we know what happened. […]

  7. […] In The Woods by Tana French. Does anyone remember this series? Each book spun off a character from the previous. I think I read the first three but there’s definitely been a couple I haven’t read. In fact I should look that up….. Okay there’s now 6! I really enjoyed this one and the second one which is…… […]

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