Call Of The Curlew By Elizabeth Brooks – A Review

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: 28th June 2018

Firstly thank you to Anne Cater for the opportunity to be involved in the blog tour for Call Of The Curlew. I’m so honoured to be involved as this really is a stunning book.

I’m writing this review having just closed the book and I still have the shivers going down my spine. My mind is a whirr of thoughts and I’m desperate to talk to people about it!

Even the first 4 lines of the synopsis gave me the shivers:

Virginia Wrathmell has always known she will meet her death on the marsh.

One snowy New Years Eve, when she is eighty-six, a sign arrives that the time has finally come.

The book opens on New Years Eve when 86 year old Virginia receives the sign she’s been waiting for every New Years Eve since she was 12 years old. The tiny skull of a Curlew bird on the doorstep of Salt Winds, her childhood home on the periphery of Tolbury Marsh. Resigned to her fate, Virginia starts the painstaking process of sorting out her belongings and saying her final goodbyes to the rooms of Salt Winds. The rooms that hold so many memories from her childhood, most of them upsetting, distressing and full of grief, fear and remorse.

From here we travel back in time to the beginnings of Virginias life at Salt Winds when as a 10 year old orphan she is adopted from a children’s home by writer Clem Wrathmell and his wife Lorna. All against the backdrop of the beginnings of the Second World War.

Right from the outset during the journey from the orphanage to Salt Winds, Clem and Virginia’s relationship is so heartwarming and genuine. Lorna struggles with her new role as ‘mother’ despite Clem’s feeling that adopting a child will improve their marriage.

There’s very obvious tension and underlying resentment in their relationship which becomes particularly strained when Mr Deering, Clem’s childhood friend and apparent adversary visits the house.

Virginia is ill at ease when Max Deering is around. His apparent hold over Lorna, his unwanted attentions and unhealthy interest in young Virginia. Why has Clem asked Virginia to keep an eye on Lorna and Mr Deering and report back to him anything unusual? Why does Lorna seem a little afraid in his presence?

One quiet afternoon on the marshes when thoughts of the war raging on couldn’t be further from Clem and Virginia’s minds, a German fighter plane loses control and crashes into the marsh which sparks devastating events set to change the future of Virginia, Clem, Lorna and Salt Winds.

I don’t really want to say much more than that plot wise as you really need to discover the wonder of this book yourselves. Each chapter alternates between Virginia’s childhood and 2015, with Virginia preparing to meet her fate out on the marshes.

This book has everything I love. A dual timeline narrative, a house with secrets, dark deeply flawed characters and skeletons in the closet. A family saga that has far reaching consequences into the present day.

The depiction of Salt Winds and the marshes themselves were just perfect. I had the house sitting in my minds eye in detail right from the first chapter. The atmosphere of the marsh, the damp foggy landscape, the almost constant whip of the wind was just so atmospheric.

Each and every character is expertly written, robust, visceral and perfectly formed. Mr Deering is just deplorable! Lorna is such a fascinating character with many layers, I really wanted to discover more about her, complex and slightly unreachable in a tantalising way.

Virginia is such a feisty, tenacious character. At times she seems older than her 11/12 years. She’s astute and tunes in to the changes in atmosphere between the adults.

Virginia in the present day is somewhat resigned to her fate but still harbours thoughts of revenge and retribution against the Deering family.

I feel as though my words alone will not do this story justice. It is one of those books that grabs you from the outset. I was initially reading it in small chunks because I had a genuine fear of it ending. Then I just tore through it, desperate to bring it to a conclusion. The tension builds perfectly and the ending which I was almost too scared to read incase it didn’t bring a satisfactory conclusion was just breathtaking. (I had no real basis for this fear other than the rest of the book had been so perfect I was scared the ending wouldn’t stack up and my bubble would be burst!).

The last paragraph gave me actual shivers. I’m still recovering now!

I urge anyone and everyone to read this book. I already know it will be in my top 10 books of 2018, if not the top 5…….hell maybe even number 1! It’ll be special book indeed that beats this one to a place in my heart.

A well deserved and 5 stars from me without a doubt.

Just stunning.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat. Xxx

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