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review 2018-11-26 21:14
Errrhhhh
Los Ojos Azules Pelo Negro - Clara Janés,Marguerite Duras

This one was one weird cookie. And for my first forage in Duras, not an auspicious one.

 

The premise, such as there is one, is interesting (when we finally get to glimpse wtf, but hey, if you made it to page 3, you know the writing is... hard to get used to would be my kind assessment), and some of the way it's approached rings true. But 90 pages of it in a weird literary flight and such a dreary tone? Big pass.

 

It's like taking a Nîn short story, stretch it 5 times it's length, take all the joy of it till the erotic label barely applies, add some strange (maybe theatric cues? Maybe meta? Who even knows!) paragraphs, and presto, depressing incomprehensible shit for you.

 

*sigh* We bought an extra book of hers this august. Wonder if I'll ever read it.

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review 2018-11-21 22:21
The Witch Elm - Tana French

Well….I finished this a couple of days ago & needed to ponder how I felt about it.  French has always been one of my favourite authors but this was a departure from her usual style. Not going to lie…..this is a door stopper of a book & right up to about page 160, I considered putting it down. Toby (at that point) was just not that compelling & he really needs to be as you spend all your time with him. Then they found the skull.

 

Nothing like good ol’ human remains to make you sit up & pay attention. The story, too, seemed to perk up. Suddenly there was direction & focus to the plot & a new energy infused the prose. This part of the book I enjoyed. The interaction between Toby & certain members of his family is a master class in psychological manipulation. The mind games & gas lighting are at disturbing levels & have us (and Toby) doubting everything. If your recollection is hazy and you accept someone else’s version, is it really a memory? With his addled brain, Toby is at the whim of those around him. But the investigation gives him purpose & you catch glimpses of the man he used to be.

 

My favourite character may have been Hugo. He’s a kind, decent guy whose hidden depths are only really appreciated after he’s gone. As for the ending…..well, it had me scratching my head. I definitely never saw that coming & I’m still thinking about why it happened.

 

French is obviously a keen observer & the complicated relationships between family members is very well done. You may not particularly like your sister/cousin/uncle but when push comes to shove you might find yourself doing something you’d never consider for someone who doesn’t share your blood. Trust, loyalty, obligation…these are just some of the themes that play out as 3 cousins are forced to reevaluate the relationships they’d taken for granted.

 

So kind of a mixed bag for me. Not my favourite of hers but definitely a book that made me think. And that’s not a bad thing. Just as an aside, what’s up with the spelling change in the title for N.A. readers? The original use of “Wych” is not only more accurate but true to the story. Guess they were worried we wouldn’t figure it out. Silliness.

 

    

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text 2018-11-17 20:53
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review 2018-11-13 19:58
The Witch Elm / Tana French
The Witch Elm - Tana French

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.

 

This book isn’t part of French’s Dublin Murder Squad books, so don’t go into it expecting that. She is still writing in the mystery genre, but no doubt feeling the urge to diversify a bit, and not be locked into just one series.

Having said that, Toby (the main character of this book) reminded me in several ways of Rob Ryan from the first DMS book, In the Woods. They both have dodgy memories and both start out each book seeming like happy-go-lucky guys. Ms. French doesn’t let them stay too settled, however. Toby’s kinda-sorta-close family ties also reminded me of Frank Mackey in DMS #3, Faithful Place. Frank, just like Toby, had to sort through family history and old memories to come to some sort of conclusion about the present.

How accurately do we remember the past? I think the general consensus is that we’re all revisionists. (As Stephen King wrote in Joyland, “When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.”) And how much more severe is that situation going to be when Toby has been severely head-injured? Actually, I really didn’t like the Toby of the first few pages and was wondering what had happened to one of my favourite writers! I usually really enjoy even French’s most annoying characters—so I was happily surprised that head-injured Toby was more much interesting and (to me) likeable.

I had a great big soft spot for Uncle Hugo as well. Having done genealogy myself, I loved that French made him a genealogical researcher (and a good one). I’ve got some Irish ancestors, who emigrated to Canada and kept raising money to bring more relatives over. I’ve got to find the time to learn more about them!

The Witch Elm also made me think of M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains, which I absolutely adored. I thought that Toby resembled Oliver Marks from that novel, particularly when it came to the book’s ending. A lovely messy ending, with only hints at how things will actually resolve when either Oliver or Toby emerge back into the world.

So, I maybe didn’t love The Witch Elm quite as much as the Dublin Murder Squad, but I still found it to be a book well worth reading. Ms. French, I am still a devotée.

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text 2018-11-08 17:59
Reading progress update: I've read 36 out of 464 pages.
The Witch Elm - Tana French

 

Is it wrong of me to like Toby better now, now that he's had the shit kicked out of him by burglars?

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