There’s an underlying claustrophobia to Francine Toon’s debut novel, Pine. Something I felt strongly even though I was reading it under blue, blue open skies, in tropical heat, in a landscape about as far removed as one could get from the book’s remote woody, Highland setting.

Toon’s child protagonist, Lauren, lives with her troubled, alcoholic father, Niall, on the edge of a forest. Her mother, who some believe was a witch, disappeared years ago and Niall and the local community have never quite got over it. Lauren herself is drawn to the mystical, to spells and tarot.

Driving back one Halloween, they come across a woman stumbling along the roadside who Lauren recognises; they take her back home with them, only to find she’s vanished the next morning. When a teenage girl goes missing, Lauren starts to wonder if the events are somehow linked.

A tale that pays more than a nod to the Gothic tradition, Pine is essentially about love and loss. Interweaving folklore and myth into her storyline, Toon evokes the world of a small, isolated and stagnating Scottish community almost paralysed by rumour, petty-mindedness and suspicion.

An atmospheric read.


Francine Toon | Pine | Doubleday | 23 January 2020 |

Please support independent bookshops and libraries


Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater, as always, and to the publisher for sending a book proof and jacket image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Please check out the other reviews on the tour.


See also: ‘Doug Johnstone’s A Dark Matter’;Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; ‘Marnie Riches’ Backlash’; ‘Russ Thomas’ debut Firewatching‘; ‘Nathan Blackwell, the Sound of her Voice’;Jason Arnopp’s creepily entertaining Ghoster‘; Carver’s Nothing Important Happened Today’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Rememembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).


This review is © 2020 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Any images are used for promotional purposes only. If we have unintentionally breached your copyright, please contact us and we will take the image down immediately. Thank you so much.





Tags : , , , , , ,