"In a dark, dark wood
Nora hasn't seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.
There was a dark, dark house
Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?
And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room
But something goes wrong. Very wrong.
And in the dark, dark room....
Some things can’t stay secret for ever." - From Goodreads
I read In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware in October in attempt to get into the thriller/horror mood. It came highly acclaimed, included in many ‘must read’ lists and comparisons to (surprise surprise) Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. With all those elements, combined with the sinister title and book description, I was expecting something very very creepy, and to be reading this with all of the lights in our apartment on.
What I which ended getting was a rather standard psychological thriller that, to me, despite being a quick read, was a little lackluster.
In a Dark Dark Wood has an interesting premise: our protagonist, Lenora, is invited to the hen party of a former best friend who she hasn't spoken to in forever, in a remote location, along with four guests (only one of which she knows well). But, while there, something goes terribly wrong...
French plays with the idea of memory loss, and tells the story in first person perspective, which makes Nora a highly unreliable narrator. This is especially true in the moments when she consciously represses past events. The story alternates back and forth in time to unravel several mysteries: why she lost touch with the bride to be, what tragic thing happened during the hen party, etc.
It had a great, start, throwing you in the middle of the action, with Nora running through the woods, desperately trying to reach someone, to prevent something. You are instantly intrigued, your own adrenaline pumping through your veins, my first thought was ‘yes! What happened?!’
Unfortunately, after that quick-paced prologue, the pace of the story suddenly slows down abruptly. True, the book is a fast read, so what I am saying might seem counter-intuitive, but there is so much set-up detail at the beginning that it takes a while for the supposed ‘main mystery’ to actually occur. The plot ends up losing the momentum it had, so by time the thrilling part happens I found myself just wanting the truth to come out (a truth you kind of guess rather quickly).
Other than the plot, what disappointed me was the fact that there did not seem to be enough background connection between characters, I understand Nora’s lack of real connection to the people who are firmly in Clare’s life, but some of the others do know each other, and those relationships weren't developed or explained enough (for example, Flo (maid of honour) and Clare, the bride-to-be, we know there is some strong connection between them, but we never actually find out what Clare did to make Flo so devoted). Some of the characters just seemed to exist to fill up a quota or space rather than being important to the plot (Melanie *cough*).
The story is filled with obvious red herrings and a smattering of ‘THIS MIGHT BE IMPORTANT’ clues, that could have made story more interesting if they were not so in your face. Honestly, the only character I actually liked was Nina, the one connection between Clare and Nora that is still existent, and the one person that Nora knows at the party, and that’s mostly because of her sarcastic humour and complete lack of filter.
I think that if you’re looking for a quick read with a little bit of mystery, then In a Dark, Dark Wood would be good for you. But, overall, this novel would probably would work better as a movie (which apparently it's going to be made into).
“People don’t change,” Nina said bitterly. “They just get more punctilious about hiding their true selves.”
“It was growing dark, and somehow the shadows made it feel as if all the trees had taken a collective step towards the house, edging in to shut out the sky.”
If anyone has read In A a Dark, Dark Wood let us know what you think in the comments below! Comments also open to further book/movie/show recommendations, anything you’d like to see reviewed, or general feedback. We’d love to hear what you have to say!