I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Crouch a month or so ago and there’s no better introduction to a book than by the person who wrote it. Julia’s actually penning her third book, probably as I type this review, and her second, Every Vow You Break, hit the shelves in March 2012.
I started with her debut novel – the beginning is always a good place to start – Cuckoo. And despite spending the weekend working on an assignment I still managed to start this book on a Friday night and finish it by Sunday night, all 435 pages of it.
There were loads of things I loved about this book, not least the main character Rose having the sort of lifestyle I’d like myself one day. Having renovated a house in the country, Rose and her Gareth live happily with their two small children; Gareth working as an artist from his garden studio while Rose raises the kids, keeps house, bakes amazing meals using local and organic produce, tends to the chickens and basically keeps everything ticking along. Lovely.
But are Rose and Gareth as happy as they should be? As the story unfolds there are certainly a few cracks in the relationship and Rose struggles to cope with Gareth’s artistic temperament. So when Rose’s old school friend Polly, an ex drug addict, ex singer and constant flirt, returns to England from Greece following her husband’s fatal car crash, Rose offers her and her two boys a place to stay while they get back on their feet. And from here on in the cracks in everyone’s relationships just get bigger.
From the minute Polly arrives at the airport, I can’t help but loathe her. I know she’s going to do bad things and attempt to wobble Rose’s settled lifestyle and my dislike builds in anticipation of what’s to come. And with each turn of the page, Polly does nothing to redeem herself. But I struggle with the fact Rose doesn’t stand up for herself more and want to shake her by the shoulders to stand up and challenge some of the things that go on around her, the constant gripes and deceit.
Soon Rose finds herself being pushed out of her cosy life, she feels like an outsider, and is made to feel like she has mental issues. But her paranoia is real. The one stable thing in her life, as Polly inflicts a kind of mental torture and attempts to reveal Rose’s darker past and some secrets she’d rather stay that way, is her daughter Anna who is a sheer delight of a child; loving, caring, bright, intelligent and yet still childlike. Rose is a good mother and by the end of the book is determined to get control back.
The book ends as a bit of a surprise for me and reveals Polly’s motives to be different to those I expected. Perhaps Polly isn’t the man hunter I had her pinned down as after all. But that’s for you to find out.
The fact I read this book in less than three days says it all. It was brilliant and I was desperate to get to the end, there’s a suspense all the way through the book that kept me glued to the storyline and I could really visualise the semi-rural setting, earth mother Rose pottering in the kitchen, a baby under her arm; manly Gareth, a moody American artist who puts his work before his family; and scrawny Polly, who despite her gaunt appearance and history of drug abuse has been able to cling on to an aura of sex and glamour and mystery while her sons struggle for her attention and discipline.
An excellent read.
Robyn’s rating: 9/10