Cuckoo – Julia Crouch

Title – Cuckoo

Author – Julia Crouch

Published – March 2011

Genre – Psychological Thriller

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book on twitter, from a giveaway by@SamEades, just before the publication date in early March. I had seen a lot of interest in the book on Twitter and people seemed to be really enjoying this first novel.

Polly is Rose’s oldest friend. So when she calls with the news that her husband has died, Rose doesn’t think twice about inviting her to stay. She’d do anything for Polly; it’s always been that way.

 Polly has never been one to conform – it’s one of the qualities Rose most admires in her – and from the moment she and her two small boys arrive on Rose’s doorstep, it’s obvious she is not the typical grieving widow. But the longer Polly stays, the more Rose wonders how well she really knows her. She can’t help wondering, too, whether her presence has anything to do with Rose’s growing sense that she’s losing her hold on her own family and home.

As Rose’s meticulously constructed world is picked apart at the seams, one thing becomes clear; once Polly’s in, it’s very hard to get her out again.

I didn’t read the blurb, or any reviews, before starting the book and certainly the blurb doesn’t really sum up the book. Rose does hesitate over her invitation to Polly, in fact as soon as she’s made the offer she realises she may have done the wrong thing. Rose and her husband have just finished renovating their house and are looking forward to enjoying it with their daughter and new baby. Gareth, Rose’s husband, doesn’t like Polly and is obviously unhappy about the invitation Rose has extended to her.

There are tensions in the story from the start. Polly has been Rose’s friend since they were 6 and they’re now in their late thirties and you soon realise that their shared history is going to be significant to the story. Rose has a very ordered and domesticated life that she wants to immerse herself in and Polly, an ex-musician, couldn’t be more different. The arrival of Polly and her two sons throws the household into chaos.

As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that Rose is keeping secrets from Polly and Gareth and you can’t help but think that these are going to lead to trouble. There is a sense of mounting tension in the book, all the more disturbing for the comfortable domestic setting that makes it easy to identify with. When I took a break from the book I went back to it with a real sense of dread.

 We only see the story from Rose’s perspective, so you never know the truth about the situations she finds herself in and sometimes I wondered about her own motivation in the way she acted. This is a great first novel, but more middle-aged & middle-class than something like a Nicci French thriller. I found it hard to put the book down (sense of dread aside) I really wanted to know what was going to happen next. For me it just left too many questions unanswered, and from a personal preference I do like the author to tell me what had happened, rather than leave it to my imagination.

Score – 3/5

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