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It is talky and reflective, with long stretches in which little happens. When his uncle Hugo is diagnosed with brain cancer, Toby recognises that caring for him may aid his own recovery.

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This is presaged on the night of the burglary, when Toby goes to a bar with his friends Sean and Dec to unburden himself about the recent dust-up at work. It turns out they had it much worse than that, as revealed in exchanges between Toby and his friends and in two long conversations between the three cousins, each running to about 35 pages.

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When they told Toby about all this at the time, he brushed it off. Through these revelations, French applies the shift in perspective used across her Dublin series to a single story. But a lot depends on Toby. Is this patchiness the result of brain damage, or is it just his character? Before his injury, Toby never had to scrutinise himself.

He was effortlessly charming and persuasive. That it was me?

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This uncertainty is most pronounced in his encounters with the police. The critical response to The Wych Elm has been both overwhelmingly positive and strikingly sanctimonious. One suspects such sensibilities would be less offended by Humbert Humbert. Imagine what years of it would do to you.

Hiss and Foam

At moments like these, The Wych Elm feels like a teenage revenge story that stretches a decade beyond school: the bullies finally get their comeuppance, and the kids who were picked on eventually prosper, having been made stronger by their suffering. At the same time, French undermines this villains-and-innocents fantasy. Leon and Susanna had a tough time socially, and Susanna was mistreated by a consultant when she was pregnant with her first child; but they, too, come from privileged backgrounds and enjoyed many of the same advantages Toby did — a cosy, insulating family, financial security, educational opportunities.

And they, too, have things to answer for, as well as ways of avoiding doing so. So The Wych Elm offers a persuasive critique of social privilege. In the Dublin series, the psychology of the murders is always slightly implausible, even fairy tale-like; the interest lies in the lives of the detectives and in the investigative process, with its twists and turns. Here, though, motivation must be accounted for, since the narrator is bound up in several crimes rather than just analysing them from the outside. But the eventual explanation makes the murders appear abstruse, even silly.

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Sign in. University of the Western Cape. Articles Cited by. British journal of haematology 1 , , Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine , Expert opinion on drug discovery 4 8 , , European Journal of Cancer 32 12 , , South African Medical Journal 8 , , Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal 40 7 , , Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity , South African Dental Journal 70 10 , , Expert opinion on drug discovery 4 9 , , World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology 56, , World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology 68, ,