Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"In the Woods" by Tana French

Book Club read for June

You're twelve years old. It's the summer holidays. You're playing in the woods with your two best friends. Something happens. Something terrible. And the other two are never seen again.

Twenty years on, Rob Ryan - the child who came back - is a detective in the Dublin police force. He's changed his name. No one knows about his past. Even he has no memory of what happened that day.

Then a little girl's body is found at the site of the old tragedy and Rob is drawn back into the mystery. For him and his DI partner, Cassie, every lead comes with it's own sinister undercurrents. The victim's apparently normal family is hiding layers of secrets. Rob's own private enquiries are taking a toll on his mind. And every trail leads inexorably back ... into the woods.

Discussion Questions.

1. What do the woods represent in Tana French's novel? Does their significance change as the story progresses?

2. The loss or absence of stable families is a recurring motif in 'In the Woods'. How do French's characters, particularly Ryan, attempt to compensate for this absence?

3. Does the Irish setting of 'In the Woods' contribute significantly to the telling of the story, or do you find French's novel to be about humanity on a more universal level?

4. How does Ryan's experience in the woods at the age of twelve affect his ability to function as a detective? Is it always a hindrance to him, or are there ways in which it improves and deepens his insight?

5. Cassie Maddox, Ryan's partner, is perhaps the most consistently appealing character in the novel. What are her most attractive qualities? What are the weaker points of her personality? Does Ryan ever fully appreciate her?

6. After sleeping together, Ryan and Cassie cease to be friends. Why do you think the experience of physical intimacy is so damaging to their relationship? Are there other reasons why their relationship falls apart?

7. Ryan states that he both craves truth and tells lies. How reliable do you find him as a narrator? In what ways does the theme of truth and misrepresentation lie at the heart of 'In the Woods'?

8. Imagine that you are Ryan's therapist. With what aspects of his personality would you most want to help him come to terms? Do you think there would be any way to lead him out of the woods?

9. How convincing is French's explanation of the motivating forces that lead to Katy's murder - forces that come close to a definition of pure evil? Are such events and motivations ever truly explicable?

10. The plan to build the new motorway, trampling as it does on a past that some regard as sacred, is an outrage to the archaeologists who are trying to preserve an ancient legacy. How does this conflict fit thematically with Ryan's own contradictory desires to unearth and pave over his past?

11. Do you have your own theories about the mysteries that remain unsolved at the of 'In the Woods'? What are they?

12. What were your thoughts and emotions upon finishing 'In the Woods'? If this book affected you differently from other mysteries you have read, why do you think this was true?

1 comment:

legs said...

Boy was this a disappointing read for me, I was so looking forward to it. First it was at least 200pgs too long and while the main murder mystery is solved the one involving the detective never is. I rate this book 2 stars.

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