Friday, April 5, 2019

French, Tana (The Witch Elm)

Oof. What is this?

On the one hand, the book is about a person musing on their own personality and how their interactions with other people are shaped by their personality. On the other hand, it's a deep dive into what it's like to be handicapped or otherwise severely disabled, physically. And on the other other hand, it's a bent-out-of-shape mystery with so many reveals I couldn't keep count.

This novel was utterly exhausting. It was engaging because of the multiple intentions of the author, stated above, but it drags you down with it, and in the end you feel like you're drowning. Also, and I'm not sure if this is a minor point or more important than that, the core bit of information - which is one large reveal in and of itself - is vital, but obscured. I wouldn't say that it's hidden away, as you learn precisely what it was and why it was important. But it is nestled in with so many other reveals that it loses its potency. I actually wonder if French did this on purpose. She's so used to crafting multi-layered mysteries that perhaps she felt it would be useful to the novel to bury this concept.

In addition to that, accompanying that theme are a couple of characters who aren't necessarily bad people but who are so deeply flawed that it's difficult to care about them, especially in their relationship to the protagonist. Unfortunately, I think that what French has set out to achieve in this novel ends up downplaying that vastly important, let's-call-it-central theme.

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