16 August 2011

Stories to read

The other book I checked out during my last trip to the Northfield Library was Jana French's In the Woods. I wish I'd kept track of where I learned about this book. I'd like to thank someone for the recommendation. As it is I have no idea how this book ended up on my "to read" list.

After the last two books I tried to read and didn't finish, I really wanted a book to like.

French won me over on the first page. Her prose and the images she created with them were wonderful. Let me quote:
Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small-town 1950s. This is none of Ireland's subtle mixed for a connoisseur's palate, watercolor nuances within a pinch-sized range of cloud and soft rain; this is summer full-throated and extravagant in a hot pure silkscreen blue. This summer explodes on your tongue tasking of chewed blades of long grass, your own clean sweat, Marie biscuits with butter squirting through the holes and shaken bottles of red lemonade picnicked in tree houses. It tingles on your skin with BMX wind in your face, ladybug feet up your arm; it backs every breath full of mown grass and billowing wash lines; it chimes and fountains with birdcalls, bees, leaves and football-bounces and skipping-chants.

I know, I've said I'm a reader who likes stories. What French did was snare me with a gorgeous scene. On page 3, she begins telling one of the stories in the book. And she does tell stories well. One of the stories is an awful story of the disappearance of two 12-year-old children that happened a dozen years before the other stories. Oh, and when those three children went mising, a third child survived without memories of what happened. Another story is about a young policeman who has achieved his professional goal of becoming a homicide detective. There's also a story about the relationship between the detective and his partner, who is a smart, mouthy, and very competent woman. The primary story is about the murder investigated by these partners.

In the first third of the book, the detectives' partnership reminded me of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Gal Friday. The smart dialogue and the knowing cooperation is a joy to behold. It changes after that, and I didn't like as I was reading, but in the end, the changes made sense and offered a bit of realism to the fiction.

The story about the children who went missing is told partly in flashback and partly in the words of old police reports. The linkage is that the detective was the child who survived without memories.

The mystery is complicated and intriguing, if murder can be intriguing. It's a major case and a whole raft of characters are drawn into the situation. A third detective joins the main pair and is almost immediately a part of the screwball comedy dialogue.

The last half of the book tells the story of the dissolution of those amazing relationships and the investigation into the details of the murder. It's well done.

I liked the characters. I enjoyed the telling of the story. I came to accept the development of the characters, even though they changed from the very attractive people introduced early in the book.

Also, after struggling unsuccessfully to wade through two books, I not only read this one, but I read it eagerly.

Tana French remains on my 'to read" list. She's written two more books since this 2007 first novel. The other two are also in the Northfield Library. I look forward to checking one of them out.

Have you read In the Woods or another French's books? What did you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think.

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