Today I am part of the Blog Tour for the wonderful Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks.
This historical fiction set on the brooding Tollbury Marsh published by Penguin Random House is out now. Find it on Amazon and many other good booksellers. #CalloftheCurlew @ManxWriter
Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks:
This haunting and atmospheric book is set in a fabulously dramatic and brooding location which is painted in beautifully descriptive prose by the author. Saltwinds is an old house set on the edge of Tollbury Marsh a vast silent landscape of seeping water and sucking sands which come and go with the tides, populated with wading birds it’s nevertheless not a place to go walking, its eerie beauty belies the deadly nature of the swampy marshland.
Not the ideal spot you might think for a young orphan girl to be brought to live. But eleven year old Virginia considers herself fortunate to have been chosen by the childless couple who live at Saltwinds, for amidst the outbreak of world war 2 and the uncertainty in the air, she has been adopted and found her forever home at the edge of this Marshland which both fascinates and terrifies her.
Quite a lot scares her, not least whether her new parents will like her!
As the book begins she is taken of foot along the path beside the marsh by her new adoptive Father towards her new home, and won over by the rather dour man who hands her sweets from his pocket. But her new Mother Lorna seems constantly distracted and is a difficult women for the lonely little girl to love. But Virginia has a lot of love to give and this lonely place proves very insular and isolated making growing up difficult and confusing for her. My emotions were really tugged for this confused young girl.
The book takes us back and forth in time from Virginia’s childhood and upbringing to the present when she still resides at Saltwinds as lonely and old lady at 86 as she was as a child of eleven. But time has passed and she knows tonight is the time she is due to die, so, as she begins to make plans for her own demise, (should she leave a farewell note? Find someone to feed her cat) the past begins to throw up its own reminders of things she believed buried beneath the shifting sands of time and of the terrible marsh beyond the windows. Why has she lived all these years under a terrible pall of guilt? The dual time aspect creates a real sense of mystery and intrigue.
Back in the past, terrible events, involving a German pilot who crashes into the marsh is about to shatter her newly built family, fractured though it already seems, it is about to completely break.
As Virginia tries to come to terms with loss and being left behind with the mother she remains detached from, the pompous and sinister Max Deering, one of their closest neighbours and his family become embroiled in their lives and a secret she has promised to keep hidden threatens to be revealed and leave nothing the same ever again.
The writing is superb, it has a slightly misty, murky feel just like the marsh which surrounds us as we read it, nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems …. see that nice clear path across the Marsh – DON’T step on it, it will swallow you up!
The book is very atmospheric, the storyline creepy and sinister with a gentle tension which builds so subtly you are hardly aware your jaw is tightly clenched as you read it. It’s one of those books where you are lulled into almost believing not much is going on, until you look back after you read it and think - Oh my, that was something else!
In some ways this book reminded me of the wonderful modern classic novel – The Book Thief (not least of all the fat tear which wound its way down my cheek as I drew a gasping breath at the end) tempered with a hint of Daphne du Maurier.
This sublime book is perfect for anyone who enjoys a historical setting subtle mysteries and the slight other-worldly misty memory feel you get when we slip back and forth in time inside someone else’s memories.
Virginia Wrathmell has always known she will meet her death on the marsh in reparation for the mistakes of her childhood.
On New Year's Eve, at the age of eighty-six, Virginia feels the time has finally come.
In 1939, Virginia is ten, an orphan arriving to meet her new adoptive parents, Clem and Lorna Wrathmell, at their mysterious house, Salt Winds.
The house sits right on the edge of a vast marsh, a beautiful but dangerous place. It's the start of a new life for Virginia, but she quickly senses that all is not right between Clem and Lorna - in particular, the presence of their wealthy neighbour Max Deering, who takes an unhealthy interest in the family. When a German fighter plane crashes into the marsh, Clem ventures onto the deadly sands to rescue the airman. And that is when things really begin to go wrong...