Here comes a bloody Sunday…
I am over the moon to reveal my thoughts about the brilliant and clever Cuckoo, a novel that makes you see things under a new light…
Thank you to Sabah and the Avon team for inviting me to be part of this tour.
Author: Sophie Draper
Date of publication: November 2018
Number of pages: 297
There’s a stranger in your house…
When her stepmother dies unexpectedly, Caro returns to her childhood home in Derbyshire. She hadn’t seen Elizabeth in years, but the remote farmhouse offers refuge from a bad relationship, and a chance to start again.
But going through Elizabeth’s belongings unearths memories Caro would rather stay buried. In particular, the story her stepmother would tell her, about two little girls and the terrible thing they do.
As heavy snow traps Caro in the village, where her neighbours stare and whisper, Caro is forced to question why Elizabeth hated her so much, and what she was hiding. But does she really want to uncover the truth?
Cuckoo would have been perfect as my Halloween night read for it combines everything I love in a thriller with a twist of spookiness that left me clinging to my blanket a little tighter than I usually do!
A death. A house. Memories. Secrets. Whispers. You can easily take those elements but never get them quite right. Trust Sophie Draper to align the planets, the chakra and whatever else to shake those regular book visitors into a real nightmare with an originality that grips your guts and turns them into a mushy mess!!!
The opening made my blood run cold. A hospital. A narrator listening but without any chance of reaching out to those around them. Scary enough, right? My kind of scary. The ‘Oh my, it totally could happen’ scary. But only sketchy details are given to the reader to let them fully take in what is happening in the room. I knew then that I had to know. Why, what, who, how? I was hooked.
I always say: ‘the past is the past’ (affirms the woman who holds a couple of grudges) and there is a good reason for this. Walking down memory lane, returning home, those ideas are never good for your mental health. Or your overall health, actually.
Caro is a very convincing but complex character. I took a liking to her almost instantly, drawn by the loneliness that the author had created around her. It felt as if there was a wall between her and the rest of the world. A thick glass reinforced by her lack of confidence and the constant questioning of her own thoughts and actions. To say I pitied her would go too far. I never saw her play the victim. No, Caro wanted to disappear, to be one of those faces in the crowd. She had found her vocation as an illustrator, but her London dream had gone dry and the death of her stepmother was another of those things that simply seemed to add to the burden on her shoulders. I saw something of me in Caro, in addition to the fact we share a birth year.
Going back to live in the house she grew up didn’t come easily to Caro. The house doesn’t hold happy thoughts and memories, but beggars can’t be choosers and the young woman is at a crossroad in her life, just out of a toxic relationship and barely able to stay in London. So why not? What could happen in a harmless farmhouse in which her stepmother died?
If at first, it is difficult to understand her reluctance to come back, Sophie Drapers shows us, and poor Caro, that the past leaves scars and that leaving her childhood home didn’t mean people had forgotten or forgiven. But what was to forgive or forget?
Throughout the novel, I couldn’t help doubting what I was reading. The mind is a powerful little bugger and the events occurring after Caro’s return were bothering me as they thread on the line between real and freaky. I can deal with a village unhappy to see someone come back, but even the house seemed to reject Caro, and ghosts from years ago still lingered between the walls. Believe me, my blood pressure never lowered as I read this slow-paced but intense tale.
Yes, tale. I chose this word for a reason.
Fairy tales. Do you like them? Do you believe in them? I don’t. I find those stories cruel and awful. I had my own version of the ugly stepmother who wants to get rid of you so I am entitled to say it. To make Caro an illustrator and have her work on a fairy tale project, all alone and snowed in in her house that feels cold and dangerous had my imagination on fire. It was pure genius from the author, who crafted splendid images and offered us to me in the most vivid way possible. Words were revealing pictures to Caro and Caro would paint them for me, making this reading experience absolutely unique and terrifying. We are not talking about Peppa Pig images here!
Imagine yourself surrounded by the old and dusty things that made you who you are today. Add an estranged sister, a weird builder, a full house to put in orders, and tell me it wouldn’t trigger anything in you. I felt so sorry for Caro as the narrative seemed to tear up every piece of her life to piece, one by one, leaving her naked and lost. And in danger. I even thought she should leave it all behind and forget about her quest for the truth. I could hear myself yell ‘run as fast as you can!!!’ in my mind. No truth is worth unearthing what the brain can’t process. But I would have missed one hell of a family twist! Because I have read a lot about crazy family stuff, here this one wins a prize! Don’t be fooled by the tale and the images, this is a real thriller!
I stopped breathing when I reached the end. Jaw-dropping doesn’t even cover it! I wanted to hug Caro, and you probably will, too. I felt close to her despite my doubts, despite the unusual events that had me thinking ‘Okay, no, not possible’, and I shivered at the thought it actually was possible. This novel had me under its spell, foggy and toxic spell. And I loved it.
Cuckoo is a magnificent atmospheric thriller about keys to the past and coping mechanisms, family secrets and scars that never truly go away. I feel like by saying more, I’d take away the magic, the scary, and the awesomeness of this gripping and taut family tale.
Get THE spooky thriller of the holiday on Amazon!
Sophie was born in the Midlands but raised in Scotland. With an MA in Mediaeval History, she followed a career in finance, travelling the world as a management consultant and International Finance Director. She took a career break to have a family and after her youngest was born, Sophie rediscovered her love of stories, taking up life as a writer and traditional oral storyteller.
Her debut novel, CUCKOO, was published by Avon (HarperCollins) on 29th Nov 2018. It won the Bath Novel Award 2017 (as “The Pear Drum”) and the prestigious Friday Night Live competition at the York Festival of Writing 2017. A second book is to be published later in 2019.
Sophie lives with her family in Derbyshire, in a house filled with music, several cats, too many books and three growing boys. As a storyteller she was nominated for the British Awards for Storytelling Excellence 2013 (Outstanding Female Storyteller) and performs across the UK, telling stories for all ages at festivals, schools, historic houses, museums and community groups.