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Cuckoo by Sophie Draper - Review

Monday, October 18, 2021

I can't remember why I got this book, although maybe someone recommended it to me or maybe it was cheap on Amazon - I'm not sure. It's been on my Kindle for ages so when I was heading away on holiday I started it. This turned out to be a bad idea because the book is set in a creepy manor house and I was staying in what turned out to be a creepy manor house! I ended up finishing the book when I came home instead!

So, Caro is in her late twenties and is estranged from her sister Steph, who is her only living relative. Their stepmother Elizabeth has just died in an accident in the house that belonged to the girls' dad, and it turns out the house will go to them. Steph has been living and working in New York for a long time, and she says she doesn't want any of the money from the house or the estate. She comes over for Elizabeth's funeral, and encourages Caro to go to the house in Derbyshire and live there while everything is sorted out. Caro is subletting her friend's flat after a bad break up, so she's keen to move. Caro is an illustrator of children's books and she has a new commission to work on, so she packs up and heads to Derbyshire. 

She had a traumatic upbringing with Elizabeth, who always seemed to hate her. The girls' dad died when Caro was small, and Elizabeth was abusive towards both girls but especially Caro. Steph left the home at sixteen when Caro was just nine, and never returned. Caro, in her turn, left for university and never returned. She goes to the village for provisions and gets an unwelcome welcome from shopkeepers there. She overhears someone describe her as 'the nutcase' and isn't sure why exactly.

The house is really creepy. Things go bang in the night and there's the bloodstain on the hallway floor from where Elizabeth fell. Then there's the pear drum. It's a musical instrument, a bit like a hurdy gurdy, and Elizabeth used to torment Caro with it, telling her a folk tale about it and asking if she had been 'bad enough yet'. The thing used to be kept in a crate in the study, but now it's packed away in the attic... until it appears next to Caro one morning. 

Then there's the neighbour, Craig. He's adopted Elzabeth's dog, and when a man starts shouting at Caro in Ashbourne, Craig is there to rescue her. But is he a little TOO nice? Caro is wary of men after her relationship with Paul, but she wants to trust Craig. 

All this is basically the premise of the book, which did intrigue me. But the actual writing didn't quite get there for me. It is confused and confusing in parts, and I'm sure Steph says they have stepsisters who then never materialise. Plus I really hate books that use amnesia as a plot device, it's lazy. This reminded me of Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, and if you know the twist in that book you'll understand why I disliked this... I'm giving it three out of five. 

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