Saturday, 5 March 2011

Book Review: Cuckoo by Julia Crouch.


Product details:
Publisher: Headline.
Paperback, 416 pages.
Release date: March 3rd 2010.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: Adult.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

A dark, juicy, deliciously unsettling, read-it-in-one-sitting psychological drama. Rose has it all - the gorgeous children, the husband, the beautiful home. But then her best friend Polly comes to stay. Very soon, Rose's cosy world starts to fall apart at the seams - her baby falls dangerously ill, her husband is distracted - is Polly behind it all? It appears that once you invite Polly into your home, it's very difficult to get her out again...

Julia Crouch’s debut novel Cuckoo is an unsettling psychological thriller. Reminiscent in part to Half Broken Things by Morag Joss, it has a sense of dark foreboding and a chilling conclusion, which will leave you  unsettled. Don’t be fooled by the pretty pink suitcase on the cover of Cuckoo, for there is nothing light and fluffy about this book. It is a book of greed, sloth, envy, lust and gluttony. All the deadliest of sins lie within its pages. The cosy country setting may be perfectly idyllic, but Cuckoo tells a tale of deeply damaged people, fractured relationships and a toxic friendship that will make you think twice before you invite your next house guest to stay. As somebody who has always been interested in the complexities and intricacies of female friendships and how suddenly and devastatingly they can go wrong, this one intrigued me from the get go, and kept me thoroughly entertained with numerous plot twists throughout.

Rose has what seems to be a perfect life. Her marriage to artist husband, Gareth, hasn’t always been plain sailing, but now they are finally happy and settled, living in a carefully constructed middle class country idyll, in their newly renovated home with their two adorable young daughters. Rose has a somewhat mundane lifestyle, but it’s also enviable in its way, with frequent trips to Waitrose and Farmer’s Markets for food, mouthwatering meals cooked on the Aga, a house filled with Jo Malone candles and a bathtub full of Aveda products. Everything in Rose’s perfect life changes with one phone call from her old friend, Polly, who, due to tragic circumstances wants to come to stay for a while. We’ve probably all had a house guest at one point or another who has overstayed their welcome, but you’re about to see this taken to the extreme. Once Polly gets her foot in the door, she truly makes herself feel at home, and it’s hard to see her ever leaving.

Crouch has populated her book with immensely unlikeable characters. I never quite took to Rose, and was left wondering if I could find it in me to root for her as bit by bit her idyllic lifestyle is deconstructed by the dark and sultry Polly. I could say a lot about the characterisation of Rose. It’s wonderfully done, with a lot of food for thought, and a smart move on Crouch’s part.  All the characters in this book are well drawn and developed. We learn of Rose and Polly’s friendship from its school day beginnings in Brighton trough  to  their hedonistic party days of drugs and alcohol in the nineties. Polly, we learn, was famous as a singer in the nineties, and is a downright doppelganger for PJ Harvey, a fact that is thankfully referenced in the book. It’s clear that Polly comes from a very dark place, and while Rose also has secrets in her past, she has successfully carved out a new life for herself, something that Polly resents, and then some!

Cuckoo is a strong debut, and I will definitely be reading more from Julia Crouch in the future. This was a quick read for me, but now, days later, I still find myself thinking about the ending of the book, which was very clever and truly creepy. Cuckoo will definitely leave you feeling unsettled. It will leave you wondering about the motivations of people and of their true intentions. It will leave you wondering about past mistakes and if they can ever be truly forgotten. The actions of the characters here are exaggerated to the extreme, but this makes for a deliciously dark read. It’s definitely a book that you have to delve into deeply, and where you will find out that not everything, or maybe even nothing, is as it first seems.


  1. Unsettling psychological books are completely my cup of tea! The reference to Half Broken Things makes me want to read the book even more. Thank you for the review, Leanna!

  2. Ooh, I think I'll definitely love this one. I swear we truly have similar taste in books. This one sounds like Beautiful Malice times 10. I love the fact that the cover is such a direct constrast to the contents of the book and it actually makes me want to read this even more. Also, the title makes me really think that this Polly character is more than just a little cuckoo and creepy. Great review Leanna - you have me sold on yet another book! :)

  3. Leanna! I hope your happy! You've made me want to read this book even MORE now ;) This is a fab review and I can't wait to get stuck in so we can have a natter about it! x

  4. Sounds like a great thriller to read, thanks for reviewing it.

  5. Oh this sounds creepy, maybe a little too much for me though. Great review :)

  6. The title is especially creepy if you know that Cuckoo birds target other birds nests to lay their eggs in -- tricking the other birds into caring for the baby cuckoo bird instead of their own offspring.

  7. This one sounds fantastic but I don't think I'd be able to read it since I don't do creepy very well.

  8. Oooh ~ this sounds a little creepy. I like these kinds of books when I'm in the mood...

    LOVED the review :)

  9. I've never even heard of this one, but I love that it sounds so creepy! I have a penchant for such books ;)

  10. Great review! I hadn't heard of this one and it sounds intriguing.

  11. I read cuckoo a couple of months ago and it was also the first book I had read by Julia Crouch. It is actually the best book I've read this year by far - the suspense and underlying stories really make it a riveting read. I liked the way Polly was seen to be the evil one - but in the end Rose gets lumbered with the guilt and name tags.

  12. Completely loved this one with the constant 'What would I do?' going on


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