The Wych Elm

Narrated by: Paul Nugent
Length: 22 hrs and 7 mins
3.8 out of 5 stars (32 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For me it all goes back to that night, the dark corroded hinge between before and after, the slipped-in sheet of trick glass that tints everything on one side in its own murky colours and leaves everything on the other luminous and untouchable. 

One night changes everything for Toby. A brutal attack leaves him traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at his uncle's rambling home, the Ivy House, filled with cherished memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins.

But not long after Toby's arrival, a discovery is made. A skull, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden. 

As detectives begin to close in, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past and himself.

A spellbinding stand-alone from a literary writer who turns the crime genre inside out, The Wych Elm asks what we become, and what we're capable of, if we no longer know who we are.

©2018 Tana French (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

What listeners say about The Wych Elm

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Deep inside the head of someone I can't care about

My audible list is quite full of Tana French - up till now - thoroughly enjoyed both for the excellent reading performances from various voice artists and for the slow paced but engrossing psychological narratives. Being inside the heads of interesting detectives, the realistic politics of Irish police stations and even the unusual intrigue of Irish life; from Dublin's wealthy private schools to working class neighborhoods. The blurb of Wych Elm promised something similar - alluding to a potential situation similar to The Likeness where the house itself played as an additional rich character. But as you begin a 22 hour audio book - you really need to start by caring about the protagonist. Empathizing, sympathizing or just intrigued by what might happen to him. Or what they may do to those around them. I disliked the reader and the character from the start. The reader sounded so insipidly weak that the characters confidence in the beginning was intangible and unbelievable. I then didn't care about his attack or what might happen to him afterwards. The prospect of another 19 hours was unbearable. Perhaps I will try and read this book myself, since it has been generally well received by critics - but I cannot listen to Nugent's version.

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Soul Searching

This is a sad, haunting tale of a young man's continual search for identity. The beautiful lyrical writing and the insightful sensitive characterisation make this one of Tana French's best novels. Excellent, sympathetic reading by Paul Nugent captures the mood and intensity of his struggle, thus giving it an authenticity that makes it a thoroughly enjoyable and compulsive listen.

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Perfect holiday novel

I really enjoyed everything about this book and listened pretty much non-stop. I went to bed early for a week so I could be alone :-) A perfectly plotty whodunnit.

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  • the typist
  • 03-02-19

Long, dull and poorly narrated.

This book needs editing. A lot of editing. So much detail, so little story. I’ve never been a huge fan of the author and this long winded, dull tome has only served to cement my feelings. The plot never gets going and although the character descriptions are penned perfectly, I just didn’t care about the people they described. As for the narrator, I thought initially that he was being ironic doing a ‘girly’ voice for the lead’s girlfriend. But no, that’s just how he sees women clearly. Absolutely cringe inducing.

17 people found this helpful

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  • VMJ
  • 08-28-19

Prolonged agony

A brilliant story, gripping and well conceived. Mostly really well read, though at times a bit melodramatic. There were times I wanted it over, but that said, I stuck with it to the end. There were also times when I could’ve hit the golden boy myself!! Within the framework, a not so subtle comment about the way privilege can buy a person out of trouble, where the less fortunate would undoubtedly have had to suffer the consequences much more...

2 people found this helpful

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  • AM HARRIS
  • 08-04-19

Twenty hours too long!

Someone should have edited this much more heavily. The interior monologues from the main character Toby were tedious in the extreme and he just seemed two-dimensional. I hung in there hoping for a big reveal that just didn't happen. The narrator used a strange nasal voice for the girlfriend which was just irritating. This was my first Tana French book and probably the last.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Angela
  • 03-06-19

Tremendous book with a gripping storyline

Having relished in the Dublin Murder Squad series, I was intrigued to listen to a Tana French story from the other perspective. Excellent characters, with some quite shocking twists which keep you fully engaged to the final lines. What a brilliant author Tana French is - when is the next book out? I highly recommend this and all her books. Tim D

2 people found this helpful

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  • Catherine
  • 10-06-19

lots of intrigue and brilliantly read

Enjoyed it because of how well it was written. It really felt like you knew all the characters and that they were part of the family. Quite disturbing in places and wished there were more high points than low points in the story.

1 person found this helpful

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  • JulianC
  • 08-07-19

The Wych Elm

I nearly gave up on this book as it took fully half to get going. It is a good engaging story but just too long at 20 hours.

1 person found this helpful

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  • C E Andrews
  • 04-05-19

it's very long

some good bits but overall just too long. Narrator 'put on' women's voices which was pretty grating, but was fine other than that.

3 people found this helpful

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  • MS T.
  • 03-22-19

excellent

This is a pleasure, beautifully written, expertly plotted and narrated with great skill. I can't praise it highly enough.

3 people found this helpful

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  • A. Thomson
  • 03-31-19

Can't get past the narration

Maybe one day I'll buy the physical book and read as I just couldn't get into the audiobook with the narration. Putting on a silly voice to read out texts got irritating very quickly. Unfortunately a DNF from me.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Katie Hadwen-Beck
  • 09-06-20

Got there in the end!

After reading the Dublin Murder series, this novel is a slower burn with the heavy detail familiar to Tana French readers. There have been criticism of the length and that editing is required, but I found myself immersed and invested in characters that I came to know and like. It’s a marathon but it’s left me thinking. Would be great on screen.

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  • christine Fiske
  • 02-28-19

A Master Weaver

I must admit for the first few chapters I was considering the thought of returning this book. However , I am so happy that I persisted because I became so engrossed in the intricately woven story that I felt part of the whole tapestry. A masterpiece of literature .

4 people found this helpful

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  • Bins
  • 05-12-19

Nightmare in Elm.

A deftly woven piece of crime literature. French is a wordsmith and a master of dialogue.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Heather
  • 03-02-19

Very well written and performed but...

I found this book really bleak and without any humour at all, which disappointed me as I was expecting to have the usual Tana French style, full of quirky humour. I also found the plot cumbersome and the story implausible. To me there was not one major character that was likeable. Although it was very well written and very well performed, I could not wait for it to finish.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Ms
  • 04-25-19

Tana French at her best

Was gripped by it. It was ambitious of author to have such a long book all in the.main character's point of view but narrator kept me hooked. Lots of twist s and turns.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Judith
  • 04-02-19

Sadly disappointing

I agree with the other reviews (which I had not read before listening to this book). While the performance is good, I did not enjoy the story, for the same reasons as the other reviewers. And I, too, had enjoyed Tana French’s other books.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Michaela
  • 03-19-19

Not as great as her other work

Look, I love Tana French. This one though... the protagonist is less engaging, it feels very slow. It’s interesting in that things you normally like about her work don’t quite click here. All her other work I’ll listen to over and over. This one, no.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-20-20

Obvious and badly narrated

This audiobook was so bad it made me angry. I have listened to one other Tana French before this and it was a victim of its narration, this wasn't much better.

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  • Karlene in Nz
  • 09-27-19

Don't go there

I love long thrillers so it says a lot when I say this story is five times longer than it should be. The protagonist is unlikeable and whiny, and the only truly relatable character dies halfway through. Determined not to give up, and driven by morbid curiousity regarding the two main mysteries, I hung in there until the 'cat in the garden' scene, (described this to avoid spoilers, and no moggy was harmed), then the actions of the protagonist killed my last shreds of patience for this dreary story. I will Google to find out the last unresolved question (and to see if I'm right in my guess), but as for the book, and probably the author, I'm out.

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  • Elizabeth Young
  • 05-04-19

Great story, poor narrator

The story was great, rally enjoyed it. However the voices the narrator put on were painful. Basically whenever people were talking, it was unpleasant to listen to due to both the put on accents and the presumed intonations of speech.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Shell Brown
  • 04-17-19

As dull as dishwater

This story is way wordier than necessary and when listening to an audio version, it’s harder to skip ahead. I found myself shouting at my phone. Frustrating and boring - not what you want from a book. Bowed out after 3 chapters.