The Witch Elm

Updated: Dec 17, 2018


The Witch Elm is Tana French's first stand alone novel after her successful book series, the Dublin Murder Squad series. In The Witch Elm, Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who has always found himself to be extremely lucky. After dodging a potential disaster at work, Toby spends a night out with friends which turns out to be the night that changes his picture perfect life. Once home from his night of partying, he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. As he struggles to recover from his injuries, he takes refuge at his family's home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. When he thought his life could not get any worse, his young nephew finds a skull hidden in the trunk of a tree in the garden of the family's home. As the identity of the skull is made known to Toby, his family members and friends, Toby's world is turned completely upside down. He is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.


Tana French is one of my favorite authors, as she has written the Dublin Murder Squad series, which I have reviewed in a previous post. Her writing style is unique and alluring, making the Dublin Murder Squad series stand out novels in the mystery and suspense genre. Since I thoroughly enjoyed her previous works I could not wait for The Witch Elm to be published. I was especially excited because it received rave reviews, so I ordered it the same day it was released and started it immediately. Initially, I enjoyed the story but after about 100 pages in I realized this was not quite like her other books and quickly ended up being extremely disappointed. I had high hopes for this book, so in hindsight, if I didn't have those expectations I possibly would have enjoyed it more. But, maybe it simply was not Tana French's best piece of work. I considered not doing this review, because I couldn't find much good to balance the negative - though I truly wanted to stay positive for the sake of Tana French being one of my favorite authors. However, to stay true to the process of book reviews, I decided to write a quick but honest review.


Though at first I truly enjoyed it, it ended up taking me three weeks to get through it because I just couldn’t get into the story. Overall, the characters were well developed, and there were a few surprising twists but overall it was not up to standard for Tana French. One of my main grievances was that it was too long (500 pages), and I felt that it could have been reduced to half. The Witch Elm seemed to have too many unnecessary conversations between characters and random scenes that did not add to the entirety of the story. What could be written in a few sentences turned into a whole chapter. One positive is that French's writing style is consistently present and the novel includes some interesting dialogue and unexpected twists. However, the parts of the book that were supposed to explode, instead fizzled. I simply could not connect to the book in the way I have with her other books, and uncharacteristically had to force myself to finish it. It was a dull and monotonous story, that at times was dreadful to read. I would encourage others to read it, purely to give the book the benefit of the doubt and to form their own opinion. However, personally The Witch Elm was disappointingly one of my least favorite books of the year. 


Book: The Witch Elm

Author: Tana French

Hardcover: 528 pages

Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (October 9, 2018)

Purchasing information: Amazon $18.30

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