I have what you’d call an eclectic taste in books. I’ve read obscure books, trendy books, YA, middle-grade, crime thrillers, memoirs, you name it.
Not everything I read is perfect. There are a lot of things that make up a perfect book, for me at least: a character-driven story, at least one character you fall irrevocably in love with, the ability to live inside the story, beautiful sentences, themes that make me think really hard about something in a new way. But even if it’s not perfect, as long as you have a well-told story, you have my attention.
The perfect story has all these things and more. It’s one I’ll think about constantly and will read over and over again.
Tana French has written four such stories.
It will take me more than one post to get into the absolute perfection that are the Dublin Murder Squad novels. I don’t even think I have the right words (and I’m someone who spends a great deal of time searching for the right words). Not only are these books unputdownable, the settings remarkably drawn, the characters so real you can taste them, the sentences are so beautiful they make my eyes hurt.
Not one of these novels has a 5-star Amazon review (not that I trust Amazon reviews—more on that later). But at least a few other people have recognized just how beautiful these stories are.
Tana French is everything I aspire to be as a writer. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but I’m having a hell of a time on the journey.
I’ll leave you with just a small selection of her beautiful sentences…
In the Woods:
“They are running into legend, into sleepover stories and nightmares parents never hear. Down the faint lost paths you would never find alone, skidding round the tumbled stone walls, they stream calls and shoelaces behind them like comet-trails. And who is it waiting on the riverbank with his hands in the willow branches, whose laughter tumbles swaying from a branch high above, whose is the face in the undergrowth in the corner of your eye, built of light and leaf-shadow, there and gone in a blink?”
“What I am telling you, before I begin my story, is this—two things. I crave truth. And I lie.”
“I’d thought I remembered what it was like, every detail, but I’d been wrong: memories are nothing, soft as gauze against the ruthless razor-fineness of that edge, beautiful and lethal, one tiny slip and it’ll slice to the bone.”
“I had been right: freedom smelled like ozone and thunderstorms and gunpowder all at once, like snow and bonfires and cut grass, it tasted like seawater and oranges.”
“In all your life, only a few moments matter. Mostly you never get a good look at them except in hindsight, long after they’ve zipped past you: the moment when you decided whether to talk to that girl, slow down on that blind bend, stop and find that condom. I was lucky, I guess you could call it. I got to see one of mine face-to-face, and recognize it for what it was. I got to feel the riptide pull of my life spinning around me, one winter night, while I waited in the dark at the top of Faithful Place.”
“Over time, the ghosts of things that happened start to turn distant; once they’ve cut you a couple of million times, their edges blunt on your scar tissue, they wear thin. The ones that slice like razors forever are the ghosts of things that never got the chance to happen.“
If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and go read these novels. Now.