In a Dark Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware
My mom lent me this book after the holidays and said it was pretty good. We generally like a lot of the same books, so if she says I should read something, I take her advice.
This book is set in England and follows the character, Nora, aka Lee, as she attends a bachelorette party for her estranged high school friend. The bachelorette party is – you guessed it – in a dark, dark wood, at a mutual friend’s family vacation home. Nora isn’t sure why she’s invited to this party since she hasn’t spoken to the bride in ten years, but she decides to go anyway with her friend Nina. There are six of them staying in the house out in the woods, and it gets creepy from there. And even though Nora soon finds out why she was invited, she’s still not sure she belongs there or why she even came.
The book goes into detail about Nora’s life and her past with Clare, the bride. There are some details pointedly left out for awhile so it definitely keeps you guessing about what’s going on. The characters are well done so that you get just enough detail about each one of them to make you think you know what’s happening but then second-guess yourself five minutes later.
When I picked up this book, I read all the quotes and reviews inside the cover that said it was scary and not to read it before bed. So I immediately started preparing myself to be scared and psyched myself out.
The real scary part is the fact that they are in a house in the woods by themselves. In the reader’s mind, the setting alone is creepy and anything could happen. Not that it necessarily does happen. And then the characters keep musing on the oddness of the house, the oddness of the friends and the relationships amongst themselves, the oddness of some of the details. The story also takes you back and forth between a present day and the days of the party. So little information is given in present day that you’re left trying to connect the dots the whole time.
The part that frustrated me most was that at one point, Nora goes for a run in the morning after it had just snowed. She comes back to the house and notices footprints that weren’t hers and weren’t there when she left. All she does is ask around, everyone is clueless, and she just shrugs it off. Like, oh there’s a man’s footprints outside the house and no one knows anything about them – oh well. Like, what?! Any normal person would investigate those! Go check out where they were leading to, at the very least! There were a few more moments like that, but that little bit was infuriating.
About halfway through the book or so, one of the friends leaves the bachelorette party early because she wants to get back to her newborn baby at home. As I was reading it, I didn’t think much of it or her character, but now thinking back on the book, I’m really not sure what value she added to the plot. She wasn’t necessary for the end (which I won’t ruin for you if you haven’t read it), but she didn’t seem to have a huge impact on any other part of the storyline either.
I would give this book five out of five stars and I would definitely recommend it. They say you’ll like it if you like Gone Girl or Girl on the Train, both of which I did, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re all identical.
If you’ve read this book and want to offer your thoughts and insights, feel free to post in the comments section!