“Pine” by Francine Toon

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Thanks to Random House UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Woohoo! A book set in the Highlands and not just anywhere – my neck of the woods!  Full disclosure, I grew up in pretty much the middle of nowhere. My school bus took over an hour just to get to school and not because of traffic, it was just that bloody far away. There were numerous times reading this book that I felt the narrator’s pain SO hard. As an adult I can look back on my childhood home and think it sounds lovely. As a child…not so much. 

It’s quite difficult to categorise this book. Atmospheric mystery maybe? Gothic thriller? There’s definitely a supernatural element to the story but it’s firmly couched in reality too. 

Lauren and her distant father come across a young woman in white when they are returning from guising (NOT trick or treat people, GUISING) and take her home. The woman bears an uncanny resemblance to Lauren’s missing mother, yet aside from Lauren, it seems that people forget about her as soon as they have seen her.  

I really liked Lauren and I think the author did a great job in capturing her life and feelings. She’s a little odd, a little different yet seems comfortable with who she is and her rather eccentric home life. The other characters didn’t resonate with me so much and I felt like some of them lacked character development. I found myself getting extremely frustrated with Lauren’s father and quite frankly just wanted to give him a slap and tell him to man up.   

I did have some niggles with some of the continuity. Forgive my pickiness but I really couldn’t help myself. The story is set in the current day (ish– there’s 4G mentioned for example, which is pretty recent in remote Highland areas, if at all) but some of the other references were to things that are long since closed or gone like Pentangle (2005, RIP), Highlander Crisps (2013) and Waltzing Waters (2011). I think the chances of these being remembered by a young teenager is slim to none. Also, there aren’t any polecats in the Highlands. 

Overall, I did enjoy this book even if it was a little slow at parts. People not from this area of the world might struggle more with the rather sedate pace of things at certain points. The pace picked up towards the end and as someone who isn’t normally a huge fan of the genre, I’d say it was an above average thriller. 

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