In a dark, dark wood… there was a dark, dark house… (My thoughts on Ruth Ware’s debut – #bookclub)

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware was my book club’s February pick. (Originally, the club’s pick was Alexander Hamilton, but after realizing that book was 700+ pages and we had only 3 ½ weeks to read it, the woman who selected it was merciful and changed her selection.)


The Kirkus review quote made In a Dark, Dark Wood sound more ghoulish than it was. It had tension, and in the beginning, the glass house back in the dark woods where most of the action took place felt suitably foreboding. But the story isn’t as eerie as the black & white title and jacket copy/design suggest. It’s one of those unreliable narrator thrillers.

It opens awesomely. The main character (Noralee, who is also known as Lee, Leo, and Nora) wakes up in the hospital after some sort of accident. She has amnesia (yeah, amnesia. Again. Didn’t these authors get the memo? But it works. Again. LESSON: anything is fair game if it works.) Anywho, Noralee has a deep sense that something is wrong and that she might be responsible.

Other thoughts, in no particular order:

Makes good use of the sage stage advice “Chekhov’s gun” (if you show the audience a gun in Act I, it had better go off in Act II).The author really did show us a gun in the first act… on a stage. That was one of the neatest things for me about the beginning of this novel – the set up. I really liked how Ware made us think that glass house in the woods was a stage. The question wasn’t what would happen, but who was watching.

Nora’s reluctance to share was understandable from a storytelling perspective but it became more irritating than intriguing as time went on.

“People don’t change. They just get more punctilious about hiding their true selves.” Immediately, I thought this sounded like a statement about the novel’s theme or a theory the author was testing. I think I was mostly right.

I liked that the author tipped her hand in subtle ways before big reveals (the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof reference, the Ouija board message).

As a writer, I loved the ending and thought it was brilliant that Ware didn’t say whether Nora clicked DELETE or REPLY. (For the record, I think Nora chose to reply).

I also loved the double meaning of “skeleton” in the traditional Halloween tale epigraph at the beginning of the novel. (You all know I adore stuff like that and try to use similar tricks in my own writing.)

But as a reader, I found the story pretty depressing. Still, I’d recommend it.

Who would I recommend this book to?

Anyone who hasn’t yet read an unreliable narrator story.

Anyone who has and loves them.

Anyone who wants an interesting book to discuss for their book club. (Our host set her own stage by providing tequila shots and a Ouija board.)

Have you read In a Dark, Dark Wood? What did you think?