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The Witch Elm

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  44,346 ratings  ·  6,781 reviews
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 car ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published July 30th 2019 by Penguin Books (first published October 9th 2018)
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Kiki You'll be disappointed, if my experience holds true for you.

I waited so anxiously for this book and started devouring it, but had to set…more
You'll be disappointed, if my experience holds true for you.

I waited so anxiously for this book and started devouring it, but had to set it aside from time to time because the repetition was so mind-numbing. The main character is shallow and unlikeable. The first 4 chapters went on forever. Then, about a quarter of the way past the turning point, I knew who did it. The final "event" -- after the reveal -- came across as impossible, not necessarily because of Toby's character, but because of the character of the other person.

I don't want to nitpick some other things because I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but there are other unlikely points. But overall, the book is way too long (don't just go by pages; the type is very small).

So what if it's beautifully written if it's beautifully written bullshit? With sadness, I gave it two stars.

Shall I Download A Black Hole And Offer It To You Are you annoyed the rating came from an ARC or galley, or are you annoyed the rating is low for an author you like? The former is a legit complaint,…moreAre you annoyed the rating came from an ARC or galley, or are you annoyed the rating is low for an author you like? The former is a legit complaint, the latter is just your opinion. I hate ratings of any sort from an ARC or galley, but I also hate when people argue someone's opinion of a book just because it doesn't jive with their opinion. We all have our favorite authors, but even a great author can write a piece of shit book, and giving high ratings for shit books just because you want to be seen as a loyal fan of said author is unfair to other Goodreads members. If you want to kiss up to an author, do it on their website, not a public book forum.(less)

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Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  44,346 ratings  ·  6,781 reviews

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Emily May
I actually didn't love a Tana French book... the world is broken. I just knew I jinxed it by writing that first paragraph in my review of The Secret Place.

I keep trying to convince myself to bump this up a star because it's hard to believe Tana French can write anything that isn't amazing. It's definitely not a bad book, but The Witch Elm - French's first standalone outside of her Dublin Murder Squad series - just didn't contain a lot of the stuff I've loved from this author.

To start with, I feel like my
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss
2 and 4 stars. If I could give this a dual rating, I would!

Explanation of rating: I had 5-star expectations for The Witch Elm--Tana French is one of my favorite authors and while I haven’t loved all of her books, I really enjoyed the most recent installments of the Murder Squad series. Unfortunately, my expectations were not met. There were parts of the Witch Elm that I loved, but others not so much.

It’s hard to describe The Witch Elm--it’s part mystery, part thriller, part family drama. Primarily, it
after languishing for months who-knows-where, my review is finally up at LARB!!

if you celebrate christmas, read it in line as you last-minute shop. if you do not, enjoy it with all the free time not having to worry about mulberries and double-sided tape and trees going up in flames affords you.


oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for best mystery & thriller 2018! what will happen?

oh, it will lose to stephen king, the man who wrote a glowing review of this book (although his review had a pretty signifi***********************************************
The Witch Elm by Tana French is a 2018 Viking Books publication.

Luck. Toby has never really considered his, until now. He’s always had an easy go of things, able to talk himself out of any potential trouble or situation with his easy charm. But, Toby’s luck has changed overnight. First, he gets into serious trouble with his boss, then his home is broken into, and he is beaten within an inch of his life.

While his parents and faithful, adoring girlfriend are rock solid support systems, Toby is i
Susanne  Strong
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss
4.25 Stars* (rounded down)

There is something about the feeling I get before reading another Tana French novel that calms me and makes me want to sit in a big old comfy chair, with a cushy pillow and a lush blankie surrounding me. I just know that I’m going to be settling in for an in-depth read with highly intelligent, well thought out, interesting characters and I immediately prepare myself. I grab a nice warm cuppa and before I know it, hours have gone by and I am in the thick of i
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lucky and genial Toby meets the guys for a night out to celebrate his circumvention of a potentially career-wrecking incident at work. Afterwards, he is nearly beaten to death by intruders and his life changes dramatically. He lands at Ivy House to care for his terminally ill uncle and to recover from his own serious injuries. A skull is found in the Wych Elm which takes this finely crafted novel into the events of the past as experienced by the participants looking back from the present day. Im ...more
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
.... safe to read....
It’s a sin to spoil a Tana French novel.
I’ve been reading Tana French since 2007. My memory is clear...I walked into “Borders” looking around...
“Into the Woods” was a new release. I had never heard of the author - but liked what the inside flap said, took a blind chance, bought it... came home and inhaled it instantly. I became an ‘annoying’ book pusher.
I was telling strangers off the street about the new mystery-thriller author Tana F
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-completed
Toby had always thought of himself as a lucky person. He came from a good family, he got along with his aunts, uncles, and cousins, and he had a good job, excellent health, a very nice apartment, and a lovely girlfriend.

However, somewhere during his 29th year, he entered into his personal time of Job, where he was tested on every front and since part of that was a burglary of his apartment where he suffered serious injury, he could no longer rely on his wits to carry him through. He
Jim Fonseca
The setting is an important part of this story: an old family house* outside of Dublin, nicknamed Ivy House, where two generations ago a whole crowd of brothers and sisters grew up and then their children came for summers, weekends and holidays. It’s now occupied only by the oldest unmarried uncle, slowing dying of a brain tumor.


The real mystery begins halfway through the book when a skull is found in a tree cavity by one of the grandkids. But perhaps the mystery started much earlier in the boo
Love LOVE and more LOVE for The Witch Elm by the amazing Tana French!!

Amicable Toby is a happy-go-lucky guy who fancies himself as one the "The Lucky Ones." He has a great job, although he did create a major mess there  - but he sorted out his mess so it's all good. He has an amazing girlfriend to whom he is faithful, except for a bit of a roving eye. And he has two terrific mates who love him, at least he thinks they do. But Toby's luck is about to change when he is brutally beaten and
DNF at 50%

I spent a long time struggling over this review. I hate insulting my favorite authors. They feel like my friends and I’m betraying them. I ADORE Tana French. In the Woods is one of my all-time favorite mysteries. However, it pains me to say that The Witch Elm, just didn’t do it for me.

The Witch Elm deviates from the Dublin Murder Squad construct. In it, Toby, a 20-something art gallery worker, is the victim of a brutal burglary in which he’s left for dead. A severe head injury leaves Toby unable to work or function on hisElm/>Thethem.
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
I had only read one book before from this author and that was “The Trespasser” which I loved. This book was just an o.k. read for me, here’s why.

I’m getting a bit tired of unreliable narrators, this seems to be a trend lately. Toby is about as unreliable as you can get since he has suffered a severe brain injury right at the beginning of the story. It all starts, as he states, on the night that he walked home from the pub to his house quite drunk and went to bed without turning on th
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Apologies to everyone who loves this book, but for me, it’s okay with some good sections thrown cropping up.

A superficially likable and self-absorbed main character, Toby, encounters his first care in the world. Well, I’ll cut him some slack. His fortunate circumstances aren’t his fault nor his credit. But no, the more I know him the less that I like him.

I know! He is severely injured from a brutal beating during home invasion burglary and only saved from death by receiving superb medical care in a
Diane S ☔
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 In this rather lengthy stand alone, French again explores the sense of identity, as well as the question, How well do we really know another person? Three cousins, children of four brothers, who have all spent their summers, vacations from school at the house where their unmarried Uncle Hugh lives. Grown up now, not as close as they once were, they all come together after Toby is attacked in his apartment and left for dead. Although he makes it, he has lingering effects from the attack, one ...more
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, arcs, 2018-reads
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

“These are doctors. I don’t know what kind of social‑ justice‑warrior shite you’ve been reading, but their job is to make people better, if they can. Which sometimes they can’t. That doesn’t mean they’re evil villains rubbing their hands and looking for ways to fuck up people’s lives.”

🌟 Have you ever watched a TV series or a film and you knew from the start it is not just for you, but it was interesting enough to make you watch a bit morPrescription
Theresa Alan
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This is a very different novel for Tana French. Still wonderful writing and still more than one mystery to solve, but this isn’t a detective-tracking-down clues story. Instead, the first big thing doesn’t happen until about thirty pages in, and the second really big thing doesn’t happen until you’re well into the novel. This allows for serious character development not just of the protagonist, Toby, but of the supporting cast as well. I found myself incredibly invested in how things would t ...more
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tana French writes a densely compelling and complicated character driven psychological drama that is a slow burner, set in Dublin. Toby Hennessy is a privileged young man, an only child, secure and confident, living a charmed life with the luck of the Irish, and an inherent ability to talk himself out of dicey scenarios with ease. After a night out with long term friends, Sean and Dec, Toby makes his way home, and wakes up to find two men burgling his flat who leave him for dead, shattering his ...more
DNF - No rating - will not be included in my 2018 book challenge.

Oh man, I was so excited for this one. When I saw it as an auto download I nearly screamed before hitting that button. I even gushed to my Goodreads friends to hurry up and grab a copy.

Ooops. My bad.

Tana French is a skilled writer without a doubt but this book went on and on and on and on and on. The pacing was slow as molasses. I honestly don't care about anything that's happening or the people it is happening to.

I will not be rating this. I got to 100 pages and calling it.
This is my first DNF for the year!! :(

My thoughts so far:
Why did you write such a boring character Tana French?!
I don't care for the main character of Toby and the story is boring. I know there is a mystery coming up but I don't care at this point. I'm not sure why she wrote a 500 page book and it takes until the 1/2 way point of the book to get to the mystery.
I can understand character development but not when
Joe Valdez
The Witch Elm is the seventh novel by Tana French and though it features Dublin and a dead body, it's her first break from the Dublin Murder Squad series. Published in 2018, French replaces the inner workings of a homicide investigation with the inner workings of a law-abiding citizen, perhaps, a man in the wrong place at the wrong time or maybe something more sinister. French's confidence as a storyteller has expanded with each novel but I grew terribly bored with this departure, not nearly committed t ...more
What Tana French, one of my favorite authors, has done here with The Witch Elm (her first non-Dublin Murder Squad book) is very interesting, but I will acknowledge it probably won't be for everyone.

The two starting points for inspiration on this book are Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm? and the idea of: what if your protagonist was a guy who has never had to work hard for anything in his life? And then you swirl those ideas around for a while in your brain, and out pops a kernel of an idea, w
Dan Schwent
After suffering a brain injury during a burglary at his apartment, Toby goes to live with his terminally ill uncle Hugo. When a skull is found in a hollow tree on Hugo's property, the cops eye up Toby as a suspect. But with his brain injury, he can't be sure he's responsible or not...

I've been awaiting this Tana French book since it was available for pre-order since her Dublin Murder Squad books are some of my favorite things. I almost canceled my pre-order when I saw this was a stan
Dec 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Novel by Tana French ( yeah I know I live in a bubble) The Witch Elm is a stand alone novel and I thought this book was a good place for me to start as I know her famous Dublin Murder Squad books are a series of crime novels and while I enjoy crime novels every now and again I didn't want to invest in a series.

The Witch Elm is a slow burner and I honestly had difficulty getting into this one due to the slow build up to the story. Smooth talking Toby Hennessy is left for dead
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland, kindle, 2018
[4.5 stars]

This is definitely a slow burn of a novel. But boy does it build up to a pretty explosive ending—probably more than any other Tana French novel I've read. I don't think this would be a particularly great place to start with French's work, even though it stands totally free from her Dublin Murder Squad series. However, it definitely has the same bones as those novels, but it just feels different in tone. Her characters in this as far less likable, which I didn't mind at all. And she's a[4.5
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads, edelweiss
Toby is the golden child whose life is charmed. Everything was going his way. Until it wasn’t.

This standalone novel is unlike any of Tana French’s previous books (the Dublin Murder Squad series). There is a murder and a mystery, but this is a slow burn, a deep dive character study where we spend most of the time wrapped up in Toby’s thought processes.

Toby suffers a traumatic brain injury and goes to his uncle’s home, Ivy House, to recuperate and help his aunt care for his terminally ill uncle.
Jessica Woodbury
I recommend knowing as little as possible about this book when you start it. Not even the jacket copy, if you can. While I almost always recommend this for crime novels, this one in particular is quite slow and the typical summary gives you at least one big twist from the early sections that is best enjoyed cold. However, this makes reviewing the book very hard because it does many things so exquisitely but it's hard for me to talk about them without more spoiling than I think a reader should ha ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the slow, ferocious burn of this novel. Tana French is not merely a spectacularly gifted stylist -- every sentence was a thing of rhythmic and phonetic beauty -- but she is an astute and precise chronicler of character. The Witch Elm is a gem. An absolute gem.
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 yo
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is the SLOWEST slow burn of a book, but holy cow did that ending really win me over.

Watch me discuss this book in my November wrap up:
Listen to me and Katie do a spoiler-filled discussion of the book in this episode of Read or Dead:
I have mixed feelings about The Witch Elm.

This is a standalone Tana French novel – the first she's written that isn't part of the Dublin Murder Squad series. It's the story of Toby, a real golden boy: wealthy, handsome, popular and charming, with a loving girlfriend, close family and cushy job, he seems to have everything going for him. That all changes one night when he surprises a pair of burglars in his living room. When he attempts to confront them, Toby is savagely beaten and left with a li
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Tana French is the New York Times bestselling author of In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, The Secret Place, The Trespasser and The Witch Elm. Her books have won awards including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Barry Awards, the Los Angeles Times Award for Best Mystery/Thriller, and the Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Dublin with her family.
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“The thing is, I suppose,” he said, “that one gets into the habit of being oneself. It takes some great upheaval to crack that shell and force us to discover what else might be underneath” 10 likes
“Then all the sharp intricate peaks on the monitor smoothed out to clean straight lines and my father made a terrible growling sound, but even without any of that I would have known, because the air around us had split open and whirled and re-formed itself and there was one less person in the room.” 6 likes
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