The Witch Elm by Tana French
Read by Paul Nugent
Publication Date: October 2018
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, when we no longer know who we are.
For the most part I really enjoyed this book. Paul Nugent does a wonderful job and I really liked his voice. He does convey all of the emotions and confusions that Toby feels throughout this book. He also does a great job with the other character voices, especially Leon, I just loved him. That said, I did have some issues with the audiobook, but most of these stem from the book itself and had nothing to do with the narration.
This audiobook was long, over 22 hours, which in itself isn’t an issue, but the chapters were also extremely long. There are only 13 chapters in this whole book, so some of them ended up being 2- 3 hours long. This was hard for many reasons as a listener, because it was often hard to find good breaks in the narrative where I could stop the book when I needed too.
I have been trying to find the right word for the pacing of the story as well. It isn’t exactly slow, but dense maybe is the better word for it. There is a lot going on in this book and much of it is in Toby’s head and all that he is going through. But it did take almost three hours into the book, before the skull is discovered and sets off the main story. I was never bored by the story, but it did get a bit wearing listening to Toby and all of his thought spirals.
This story was a great look at how trauma can shape people. Not only Toby’s trauma of almost being beaten to death, but the trauma that his cousins went through when they were teenagers. It is also a great look at how even normal people can be pushed to the edge and commit unspeakable acts. The mystery aspect of the story was well done, you were never quite sure just who had committed the murder until the big reveal. Toby was a great character that I really got attached to and wanted the best for him.
I think this is a good story with a lot going for it that I would recommend to those of you looking for a mystery that has a lot of depth to it. I would not necessarily recommend the audiobook, except maybe if you were taking a road trip that required long sessions of driving. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for other books narrated by Paul Nugent. I really enjoyed listening to him.