Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks
Opening sentence: “Virginia Wrathmell knows she will walk on to the marsh one New Year’s Eve, and meet her end there.”
Call of the Curlew has a wonderfully executed dual timeline and opens with 86-year old Virginia waiting for a sign. She has lived in Salt Winds since she was 10-years-old. It is a grand opposing house down a long isolated road that perches on the edge of a vast and dangerous marsh. She has been waiting for a sign since she was a young girl, telling her to go out to the marsh and not to come back. Everything is in place, then she spots a girl on the marsh, throwing her plans into disarray. But who is this girl?
We are also taken back to New Year’s Eve 1939, where 10-year old orphan Virginia is brought by her new adoptive father, Clem, to her new home, Salt Winds. Unable to have children, Clem and his wife, Lorna, welcome Virginia. However, their marriage is not perfect and their friend and (distant) neighbour Max Deering takes a little too much interest in the family…
Virginia is repeatedly warned by Clem to never go onto the marsh, so when she spots an enemy German fighter plane crash into the marsh, she knows Clem is taking a risk when he goes out to help the pilot. This sparks a sequence of events that mean Virginia’s life will never be the same.
I warmed to Virginia immediately, she is a character with depth and imperfections that make her feel so real. Plot-wise, the enticing scene is set – themes of regret, redemption and revenge are explored. Couple this with the fact that this is a very visually evocative book and all the boxes are ticked. It slots easily into the Gothic genre with its creepy, isolated setting and constant pulse of suspense that thrums throughout. I couldn’t help thinking that walk further down the marsh and the plot of a few other books would be playing out – The Taxidermist’s Daughter, The Woman in Black and The Essex Serpent are the ones that immediately spring to mind. They all feature strong, intelligent women too, so Virginia would be in good company.
Overall, the dual timeline really gives Call of the Curlew an edge as there was mystery and suspense in both eras – two separate, but perfectly woven plots that both had me hooked. Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours and Hannah Bright at Doubleday for a copy of the book and inclusion on this lovely blog tour! Call of the Curlew is out now – get your copy here.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Brooks grew up in Chester and read Classics at Cambridge. She lives on the Isle of Man with her husband and children and describes herself as a “Brontë nerd”; Call of the Curlew is her homage to the immersive and evocative writing of Charlotte Brontë.