Posts Tagged ‘ireland’
I keep forgetting I haven’t posted on Faithful Place, even though it’s already in a box waiting to be sent to my dad to read. Let me take you back to the cooler days of July, dear readers, and tell you about my internal debate, which went something like this: “Self, you are broke and trying to save money for multiple vacations. Do you really think that this book will be worth buying in hardback on the day of its release?”
And it was. Matter of fact, Faithful Place might be my favorite of the three loosely-tied-together mysteries. I suddenly had a great deal of understanding for Frank, the main character, who was gruffy and kind of an ass in The Likeness, and even kind of liked him. I was sucked into the gritty side of small Irish town politics, and I tore through this book in less than two days and licked my chops afterward.
Tana French has a wonder quality as a mystery writer in which she’s able to balance character development as well as a quick and engaging plot, and yet, she’s never quite to be trusted in terms of narrator reliability. A writer whom you trust implicitly and yet keeps you on your toes is truly one worth savoring… if only you could stop turning the pages.
And that’s why there’s plenty of time to re-read this book, and why it was so worth the splurge.
After I finished In the Woods and found out Tana French’s follow-up book was about the fascinating and as-yet underdeveloped character of Detective Cassie Maddox, I went to my used bookstore the next day. Readers, I was fully prepared to pay full price for the book in the event that Half Price did not have it. That’s how serious my craving was- I was willing to jettison both a bargain price and Amazon to have it in my hands immediately.
Fortunately, the universe came through for me and there was a lovely unblemished copy of The Likeness in stock AND on the clearance shelf. Never have I felt so taken care of by mystic forces.
The Likeness picks up six months after the end of In the Woods. Cassie has transferred out of the murder department and into domestic violence- until the body of a girl who looked exactly like her AND who was using her former undercover alias (Lexie Madison) is found in an abandoned cottage .
Now comes the part where French tests the reader: exactly how much are you willing to suspend your disbelief? But hey, I watched Iron Man 2 over the weekend, so I was game. A scheme is hatched for Lexie Madison’s roommates to be told she survived the stabbing and is coming home- but for Cassie to be sent in undercover as Lexie to determine possible suspects for her murder.
Still reading? If so, then the rest of the book is quite fascinating, especially as all of the roommates are English majors. Cue the drunk but philosophical talks and the big dreams of not working and just writing for the rest of their lives. I understand; I’ve got the same dream, which is why I have plans to move to a Vermont farmhouse and co-found a commune. But still, it’s quite interesting to watch the group attempt to resist pressures from the “real world” by refusing to engage with their parents or discuss their pasts.
The really dissatisfying part of this book to me was the romance angle between Cassie and another detective Sam. I thought it was unconvincing, underdeveloped, and maybe it’s just because I really liked Rob Ryan, but I was not a fan of their romance at all. I kind of hope that French breaks them up in the future. I also hope I see a lot more of Cassie and Rob Ryan.
In the meantime, I’ll be bidding my time until French’s third book comes out, which focuses on Frank Mackey, the detective who coordinates Cassie’s undercover operation in this book. I might even have to buy it in hardback. Of course, this will mean my copies don’t match and paying full price. We’ll see whether my thrifty Virgo tendencies can hold out, but I’m betting I’ll be beating down the bookstore door on July 13.
A week ago, I did not know who Tana French was. I was wandering through my happy place- a used bookstore after a particularly stressful day at work, and I picked up In the Woods on the clearance rack for two reasons: 1) I liked the cover and 2) I remembered having vaguely heard of this book. I took it home and could not put it down, and then immediately went out and bought French’s second book (also on clearance- win!), and all told, I have read through 900 pages of Irish murder mystery in the past week.
In the Woods opens with the dead body of a teenage girl being found in an archeological dig site. Enter Detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox, and throw in an extra complication: this is the same location that Ryan and two of his friends went missing as 12-year-olds. Only Ryan was found, with blood in his shoes and socks, and no idea what had happened to his friends. This event changed the trajectory of his life, especially given his efforts to avoid thinking about the trauma, right up until this case. Enter themes of identity as well, given that very few people know that Ryan was the kid who survived, and it’s a perfect storm for our Irish boy.
French uses the first person, which makes Ryan’s recounting of the case and his not-so-gradual breakdown intensely immediate. In the Woods was not a car wreck that I couldn’t turn away from, but rather a car wreck I couldn’t escape, as I was in the car with Ryan. I wondered what kind of a detective Ryan had been prior to this case, and worried about his liver, and wanted to yell at him when he made his predictable but annoyingly dumb mistakes.
Oh, what a meltdown it was, and still, I liked Ryan at the end of the book, and wanted much more of him and Cassie. And I wanted more of French’s writing, which was surprisingly elegant given that the grisly crime works are not where I go looking to find prose that will move me.
This book is definitely a first novel and was not without its flaws, but I think the fact that I could not put it, or its follow-up down, speaks for itself. Additionally, this was the perfect book to satiate me until The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest comes out later this month. And for anyone to whom I’d like to recommend Larsson but worry about the graphic violence and triggering scenes, I finally have an alternative recommendation: Tana French.
I finished Colm Toibin’s The Master late last year- actually, I’m not sure I ever got a chance to post about it here because it was around the holidays- and was absolutely blown away by the writing. The Master was a fabulous book with beautiful writing that made me want to read Henry James. That’s talent, kids. After throwing the book at my brother, I picked up another of Toibin’s books, The Blackwater Lightship, as I am biding my time until his new book, Brooklyn, comes out in paperback. Or I get to the library. You know, whichever comes first.
The Blackwater Lightship is set in Ireland in the 1990s as three generations of women learn that their grandson/son/brother has AIDS, and he’s quite sick. The mother and grandmother are also learning this at the same time as learning that Declan is gay, so there’s quite a bit of internal and external conflict as each tries to adapt to this knowledge. For being the calayst of so much consternation, however, the story involves Declan in a fairly minor role, and instead centers around three women- Dora, the grandmother; Lilly, the mother; and Helen, the daughter, who have all been estranged- though they would never quite call it that- for years.
The direness of the Declan’s health forces all three women to stay at Dora’s house, where Helen and Declan were left for months as children while their father battled cancer and ultimately died. Being forced to return to the house therefore triggers inescapable memories and Helen and Lilly finally discuss their differences.
Although the book focuses quite a bit on Helen and the reader is convinced that she must have been done a terrible wrong by her mother, the characters eventually become full and it’s clear that Helen has been, if not an unreliable, at least an overtly biased narrator. Perhaps this is part of the reason I had my doubts in the middle of the novel about Helen’s rapidly declining likeability and whether the novel would be able to regain my interest and affections. I think it was able to do so in part because the subject matter is of personal importance to Toibin. In the end, it was a novel of subtle depth (though that seems to be a contradiction) and symbolism that is well taken but does not beat one over the head. I can see why it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and I can also see why it fell short. At the same time, Toibin’s abilities are clear, and it’s not surprising The Master came to follow.
I would recommend reading Toibin without a second thought, but would hesitate to tell people to start with this novel for fear they would also stop with it. But if you’re of a persevering nature, or have already been exposed to Toibin and have a bit of patience, this book is a solid, if slightly underwelming read.