Reviewing: Pine by Francine Toon

Content warnings: Murder, alcoholism, assault, animal violence

My Rating: 3.5 Books out of 5

Highlights:

  • Strong witchy vibes
  • There was something very surreal about this book
  • The exploration of the relationship between Lauren and her father was really well done
  • The kind of book that makes you want to explore forests in the Scottish highlands 
  • But also makes you want to stay far away from them 

“Up in her bedroom she lays her tarot cards out on the bed. A draught creeps across her shoulder blades and, for a moment, she gets a strange feeling of a hand, reaching out of the darkness.”


My rating for this is dead in the middle of the road because months later I still cannot decide if I liked this book. Part of an impromptu Waterstones haul (remember when we could go to book shops? Good times), it was right by the tills and the cover was gorgeous and it looked appropriately spooky so I bought it. 

Story of my life, really my impulse control is awful. 

From an atmosphere standpoint it’s outstanding, honestly. There’s nothing like the magic and potential of a forest to a child. Anyway, before I get ahead of myself, what is it about? 

Lauren lives with her father Niall in the Scottish Highlands, in an old house surrounded by a pine forest and frequented by misery. Lauren’s mother disappeared ten years ago, and her absence haunts their waking hours in more ways than one. With her father refusing to talk about her mother, Lauren turns to the things she left behind – mainly a book of spells and a tarot deck. Beyond that is yours to discover because honestly it’s not that long a book and you know I try to avoid spoiling things. 

The relationship between Lauren and her father is such a focal point of this book, and it is just such a complex dynamic. At ten years old, Lauren is old enough now to hear some of the whispers about her father, to see more clearly how he differs from her friend Billy’s parents, and old enough to be resentful of his silence. There are topics they never discuss, rooms they never open, and when they come across a mysterious woman in the night on their way home it kickstarts a series of events that uncover the past for better or for worse. 

I think my main issue with this book was the pacing, because the story itself was really good – it just happened very slowly which I’m not a fan of. I find when you’re hyper-aware of just how long you’ve been reading a book, it’s lacking somehow. I understand that life for a ten-year old in an isolated village is probably not the most fast-paced of living conditions, but sometimes the slow building for suspense was so slow that the suspense had to be cut short because I had to put the book down to do something, or my lunch break ended, or I just got a bit bored. Perhaps it was ‘pandemic brain’ – it wouldn’t be the first time in this last year that my brain has rebelled against reading, and perhaps I’ll re-read it one day just to see. But for now, it’s a beautifully written story of folklore and mystery and secrets, it was just too slow for me. 

That cover though, am I right? 

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