I picked this novel up last year after seeing all the praise it was getting. As I’m a lover of Gothic fiction myself, I knew that I just had to give it a chance! For me, whilst the novel had a strong start, by the end I was unsure of how I felt about it.
Pine begins with Lauren and her father, Niall, driving home after a night of trick or treating with their neighbours. In the road they come across the ghostly figure of a young woman in nothing but a man’s dressing gown. They take the mysterious woman back to their house but she is gone by the morning. Not only does Lauren find this strange, but the situation becomes even stranger when it turns out her father has no memory of this event at all. Strange occurrences continue to happen and all come to a head when a local teenage girl goes missing. As more strange things happen, the more it becomes apparent to Lauren that the rest of the small village is hiding something from her about her mother’s disappearance…
I thought Lauren was a very interesting choice of protagonist and also a very clever one at that. For some reason everything seems much creepier when children are involved. I thought Lauren was a very believable child character, she very much felt her 11 years which was great, as I find that children’s behaviour can be difficult to get right, especially in adult fiction. I liked that she was simultaneously dealing with the usual pre-teen struggles at school and concerned with her ‘cool’ image, but also dealing with strange, potentially, supernatural occurrences.
In addition to Lauren, there were a whole host of unnerving and troubled characters. It was very difficult to like Niall, you could understand why he behaved the way he did after his wife went missing (which made everyone suspicious of him) but at the same time it was difficult to find any redeeming features about him. I liked Kirsty and Billy, and how they tried to help Lauren where they could, even if Billy would only do this outside of school – which seemed time typical behaviour for a schoolboy. The teenage girls Diane and Ann-Marie were possibly my favourites in the novel. Although they were seen as the cool popular girls, they both cared a lot for Lauren and almost felt like they’re sisters.
At the beginning of the novel I was really drawn in by the mystery and how creepy the village, people and what Lauren was experiencing all were. I was really intrigued by who this mysterious woman was and the answers are so why no one could remember her. However, as the novel continued for me the unease I felt at the beginning started to wear off. I liked the fact that the story was wrapped up and we mostly had answers to the questions the novel raised but I was expecting more. There is a lot more I would like to say about the ending, but I want to avoid spoiling the book!
Overall, I can understand why this novel got all the praise that it received as Toon is clearly a talented writer and does know how to put her readers on edge. However, it just didn’t click for me by the time I reached the end.