Oh Lord, that’s a terrible decision! Don’t go up those stairs! Don’t trust her! Don’t go in the woods!
In the Woods isn’t a horror movie, but the main character repeatedly chooses the wrong path. If to the right are roses and unicorns, and to the left a reddish sky and the twisted remains of those who have gone before, Detective Rob Ryan always chooses the left. It gets painful, because you want to like him but he’s an idiot.
Tana French starts out with a gloriously creepy premise. Two decades before Rob ignores the unicorns, he was the sole survivor of SOMETHING MYSTERIOUS which happened in the suburban woods outside Dublin. The story is contemporary, and Ireland is free of snakes, fairies and Druids…or is it?
No, it seems to be a relatively unmagical place, full of sloppy cops, child molesters and corrupt politicians. As Rob and his endearing partner Cassie Maddox try to track down the molesters while avoiding the slop and corruption, tendrils of Rob’s past come winding in, blurring the line between plot and coincidence, past and present.
If you enjoyed Warner Herzog’s version of The Bad Detective, you’ll enjoy a similar self destruction in In the Woods.
The thing that I have always liked about Hemmingway’s narrators is that they come off as trustworthy, not as people, for they are all heartbreakers and gamblers and drunks, but in the relationship between reader and story-teller. I don’t feel the need to second guess the facts as they are presented. That, more than anything else has always made me love Hemmingway, despite the various politically incorrect failings so often associated with his work. He may be sexist, but he’s honest, and I can work with that.
A Farewell to Arms is about war, of course, and that it is terrible, as one would expect. The interesting thing about Hemmingway’s war novels as compared to say, the work of e.e. cummings or Wilfred Owen is that Hemmingway lets the reader in on the delights of war as well as the misery. His male characters bond and march and enjoy the landscape while drinking and joking and just generally being manly. Few other authors can write a man-friendship with such insight and authenticity. The conversations between Henry and his friend Rinaldi are just about perfect dialogue, summing up the whole novel in a few pages of discussion. Sex, love, war, religion and death, interspersed with insults, like a conversational Cliff’s Notes.
It might be possible to be so in tune with the male psyche and still understand women, but Hemmingway isn’t the right person to demonstrate such a talent. Catherine, the love interest, is needy and shallow. Her conversations with Henry are pale and pointless when compared to those he has with male characters. The story ends with the typical punishment of a female character, drawn as tragedy but really there as a release from commitment and the boredom of a happy ending.