Hi lovelies! It’s time for my first review of the year! And I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Pine, the debut novel by Francine Toon. If you’re a fan of the Gothic, you’re going to want to read this one…
They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men.
Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone. In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago. Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust…
In spare, haunting prose, Francine Toon creates an unshakeable atmosphere of desolation and dread. In a place that feels like the end of the world, she unites the gloom of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.
This was a very enjoyable debut! Pine is instantly atmospheric; Toon does a wonderful job of conjuring the eerie, isolated setting and making her reader feel immediately unnerved. I genuinely loved the setting. Spooky forests with a hint of the mythical are my jam. But what makes Toon’s setting work so well is the combination of this folkloric style with more modern references. The story is so well-grounded in reality that it makes it very easy to suspend your disbelief and accept the possibility of supernatural elements. And this made it all the more unsettling.
The fact that the book is set in Scotland was another huge plus for me. I feel like Scotland is a country that just lends itself so well to this type of story. Toon’s use of Scottish dialect was very well done and I greatly appreciated it. There’s nothing worse than reading a book set in a particular country where the author makes no effort to truly capture the sense of that place. No worries here on that front!
As someone who is used to only reading about children in middle grade books, I really enjoyed reading an adult book that gave us a child’s perspective. I thought this was a smart choice on Toon’s part. It made me feel incredibly invested as well as adding to the uncertainty regarding what is actually going on at times.
The only thing I wasn’t fully sold on with Pine was the ending. I feel like things wrapped up very abruptly and I didn’t really understand the motivations of a certain character. I’m not sure enough clues were laid throughout the story to lead us to that conclusion.
On the whole though, this was a great debut and one that will definitely please fans of Gothic fiction like myself! Huge thanks to Doubleday for providing me with a free ARC!
Pine is out on January 23rd! Will you be reading it? Check out the other stops on the blog tour for more information and reviews!