NO REALLY, IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THIS YOU WILL GET NOTHING OUT OF THIS
So, being the incredibly hip and up-to-the-minute reader I am, I have finally gotten around to reading 2007's breakout mystery/thriller In the Woods by Tana French. When it came out, it seemed like everyone was reading it and gleefully moaning about it online! Sadly, it transpires that was purely an online 'everyone', and no one close to me in real life seems to have read it. Sad because I REALLY NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS, GUYS! It's beautifully written on the level of sentence, the characters are believable and living, and the plot is interesting, but there are some...stumbling points, gambles I'm not sure worked for me, but which may have worked for you?
So, has anyone read it and not long ago extinguished all interest in discussing this?
First of all:
1. Did concealing what happened to Peter and Jamie work for you?
I was immensely disappointed that we didn't find out what happened in 1984. IMMENSELY. However, I'll admit that by the end, French had successfully transferred my attention and urgency to the present-day plot, so I didn't finish the book feeling upset or let down. (Except upset at our narrator, who deserves it.)
I felt that French was continually holding the 1984 secret out closer to us, then jerking it away. It reminded me of Lucy and the football in Peanuts, honestly.
I wanted to believe eventually we'd find out the truth. I wasn't sure we would, particularly as I thought I remembered some people calling this a 'thriller' rather than a 'mystery', which makes fewer promises about answers.
To the extent that I accept not finding out, it's because the author successfully made the mystery so evocative and creepy that its continued existence might well be more pleasing to the reader than a reveal. (We all know how much more we liked not knowing what LOST was about than having the answer, right?) There's something Picnic at Hanging Rock about Peter and Jamie's disappearance which I accept as a beautiful creeptacular gem and am content to put in my pocket -- but then, I'd tried to prepare myself for that eventuality all along.
Did you mind not knowing? Did you find your urgency to know was successfully replaced with an urgency to have Rosalind punished, by the end?
2. Did Rosalind fool you, and for how long?
I thought the second boldest thing Tana French did, frankly, was have the narrator tell us, the readers, we shouldn't blame him for being fooled as 'she'd fooled us as well'. That's a very large check you wrote there, French -- although it's poor deluded Ryan's name on the account, ultimately, not hers.
I admit this comes off as the classic mystery-reader brag, but honestly, the moment Rosalind appeared I thought she must be a clinical narcissist. The histrionic emotions that dominate the room and leave no concern for any of the people -- Katy's actual parents or twin, hello -- were clearly attention-seeking and gross, even if I wasn't sure then that they were fake. It wasn't too hard to jump from armchair diagnosing Rosalind with one personality disorder to the proper one.
I don't know that I think French FAILED for me exactly: she did make the background on sociopathy from Maddox fairly seamless, and so on. I still found the book satisfying and the plot intricate: but did Rosalind seem equally fake to others? If so, maybe she was heavy-handed.
I'm certainly interested in reading more of French's work: if she telegraphed certain things and made some gambles that didn't pay off, they were in the course of a truly impressive first novel, with just delicious writing on the paragraph level. I'm also curious, now that she apparently has a 'Dublin Murder Squad' series, to see who the main characters (narrators!?) of future books are.