I was in Dublin not too long ago, in an independent book shop that someone had recommended to us, having the inner struggle I always have in book shops, where I want to buy everything and also I don’t want to spend my whole budget on books. I had already chosen a few books by Irish authors and decided that that’s enough, when I saw this gorgeous book cover on the shelf – Pine by Francine Toon. Reading the back cover told me that this is an eerie story set in a small village in the Scottish Highlands, surrounded by a pine forest. It took everything I had to step away from the shelf, telling myself that I have already gotten enough books and I wasn’t prepared to leave any of them, especially because I wanted to focus on Irish authors this time. Two days later I ended up at this book shop again and my will wasn’t strong enough, so I bought the book. And I am very happy I did.
The story focuses on a little girl, Lauren, and her father, living in the Highlands. The girl’s mother disappeared when she was just a baby and this makes her and her father somewhat of an oddity in the village and a topic of gossip. Her father deals with this by keeping himself to himself and drinking often, his anger always close to the surface. One night, on Halloween, the girl and her father find a strange woman on the road and take her home with them. She is gone the next morning and there is something surreal and unsettling about the whole situation that Lauren can’t seem to understand. In the coming weeks, as winter falls, the unexplained phenomenon keep happening and no one seems to want to talk about it.
If there is one thing I loved about this book is the atmosphere. The gloomy, cold and isolated setting, surrounded by wilderness and stillness is perfect for an eerie, supernatural story. It’s definitely not a plot-driven story, as the main plot picks up the pace shortly before the ending, but the atmosphere is enough to keep you hooked. Besides, I am in love with the Highlands and experiencing them in this way was a (dark and gloomy) delight.