final review: The Likeness by Tana French (audio)

Well, I don’t suppose I have much more to say about this one than I already did in my early review, other than to assure you that the positive feelings persisted! Tana French kept me guessing til the end, and she had me deeply invested in her characters. The final denouement was satisfying. Cassie felt real to me; all the characters felt real to me. I was sorry it was over, and especially sorry that I’ve now read all three of French’s novels. This is in my opinion her best. I hope there are more to come – and I hope Heather O’Neill narrates them.

I ended up feeling that The Likeness is really very reminiscent of Rebecca in some aspects: the house as a character, as a force, with a personality and motivations all its own, with a history that intrudes upon the lives of the present residents even when they’re unaware of that history… and more (avoiding spoilers). Further, the mood and tone of this book share a slightly spooky atmosphere, a sense of foreboding, a feeling of something unknown looking over one’s shoulder, with Rebecca. But it’s not derivative. No, The Likeness is a fresh, new piece of work, with accomplishments all its own. I would love to hear Tana French’s explanation of the role she feels Rebecca plays in this novel, though.

I’ve been asked if I think it’s necessary to read In the Woods first. That’s French’s first novel, and introduces some of the characters we meet here. I don’t think it’s all at necessary. (Full disclosure: I’m a fan of reading series out of order.) I read In the Woods about 2 years ago, and don’t really remember it at all. Those characters that transfer over into this book are in very different circumstances now, and their histories are explained enough that I felt comfortable. That said, there is much reference to “that big thing that happened that changed everything,” and “that thing” is not explicated at all. I wasn’t bothered by it; some readers may feel motivated to go read the first book to answer their questions. I didn’t find it necessary. If that’s the kind of thing that bothers you, by all means go read In the Woods first. I found The Likeness far superior, but to each her own; maybe you’ll feel the opposite. I guess my main point here is that while these two books share characters, they are not serial in the sense that the action of the first book is built upon in the second. They can confidently stand alone.

This book is amazing and I found it unique. (Simon has drawn a comparison to Tess Gerritsen’s Body Double. I may have to go find that one.) Beyond that, I refer you back to my earlier post (link at top of this one) in which I rave. The ravings stand.

Rating: 9 questions of identity.

12 Responses

  1. What made you (and why are you) a fan of reading series out of order? Are there any examples of series that you read out of order that you thought enhanced your enjoyment of the books?

    • Good question; I had to think about it. I think what I love best about serial works specifically is character development: learning more about, say, Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly’s main detective character) as the series goes on. That’s one example of a series I’ve read out of order (also mystery series by Elizabeth George, Lee Child, Martha Grimes, etc.) and so I get the character development out of order – like a book or movie that uses flashbacks to tease us with an unexplained detail, only to go back and explain it later. And for that matter, many of the books in question use that flashback chronology within the book, too. I’ve just expanded it to the whole series, beyond the authors’ intention, by reading out of order. I don’t look to do this on purpose. But I’m a reader of opportunity – I finished Connelly’s entire works by picking up whichever one I could get my hands on, rather than chasing down the next one in the series. So by accident, I’ve discovered that I rather like the disjointed chronology that I’ve created in my own reading. I remember reading a Lee Child book referencing a certain relationship, now ending, now past; and then later picking up the book where that relationship begins. That gave me a thrill: to see its beginning after I saw its end. Is that weird? Probably; and probably uncommon. But I do seem to appreciate series out of order. Again, I don’t seek them out that way on purpose; but I’m perfectly happy to pick up books as they come to me, rather than in any specific order.

  2. […] Likeness (two-part review) was Tana French’s first novel, and my favorite of her three (though I […]

  3. […] only grown as I’ve read her books, culminating with the first she wrote but the last I read, The Likeness. So I was very anxious to get my hands on her new book, Broken Harbor. My review is coming in a day […]

  4. […] Likeness (in two reviews), Tana […]

  5. […] The Likeness by Tana French: I’ve enjoyed some of hers in print and in audio, but this is my favorite and I feel strongly about the audio. For one thing, they’re set in Dublin and the Irish accents are amazing. For another, the plot of this novel involves faking someone else’s identity, and to hear how her voice changes when she’s in character is really something. Well done, narrator Heather O’Neill. […]

  6. […] Rindell’s fine sense of pacing, the doling out of detail and prolepsis, is adept. It is not everyday that I am this drawn in and enchanted by a story; I couldn’t wait to hear what would happen next; I was guessing and second-guessing. As a thriller, The Other Typist evoked some of Tana French’s best work (as here). […]

  7. […] I love Tana French. Obviously I was excited about her latest, which I am accessing via audiobook (because I have loved past audio editions of her work, especially The Likeness). […]

  8. […] I’ll share with you a few lines spoken from Frank Mackey (who we remember from The Likeness and Faithful Place) to Detective Stephen […]

  9. […] have read and loved several books by Tana French now, although I think The Likeness has been my favorite. Like I’ve done with a few, this one I listened to. These Irish […]

  10. […] but by the end, it zipped along as cracklingly as the best of French’s work. I still hold The Likeness to be her finest, but this one is […]

  11. […] never disappoints. This 2020 novel (her latest to date) reminded me quite a bit of her second book, The Likeness (2008), which is still my favorite, I think. In line with all her work, The Searcher boasts […]

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