The Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks

Social media was solely responsible for the appearance of this book on my radar.  As each new blogger on the blog tour described it, I knew it was one I needed to read.  I love being a small part of the Twitter book blogger’s community; it’s such a positive place, where everyone is so supportive of each other, and you get to hear about great books that might otherwise have passed you by!

What the book blurb says:

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

One snowy New Year’s Eve, at the age of eighty-six, Virginia feels the time has finally come.

New Year’s Eve, 1939. Virginia is ten, an orphan arriving to meet her new parents at their mysterious house, Salt Winds. Her new home sits on the edge of a vast marsh, a beautiful but dangerous place. War feels far away out here amongst the birds and shifting sands – until the day a German fighter plane crashes into the marsh. The people at Salt Winds are the only ones to see it.

What happens next is something Virginia will regret for the next seventy-five years, and which will change the whole course of her life.

My thoughts

The opening paragraph to The Call of the Curlew is just perfect. The more I think about it, the more I marvel at its brilliance. It sets the scene and the premise of the book, and it immediately gets the reader thinking Why?

“Virginia Wrathmell knows that she will walk onto the marsh one New Year’s Eve, and meet her death.  She’s known it for years.  Through adolescence and adulthood she’s spent the last days of December on edge, waiting for a sign.  So when one finally arrives, in her eighty-sixth year, there’s no good reason to feel dismayed.”

Why does she feel that way?  What happened to make her believe that? And what will happen to Virginia as New Year’s Eve draws to a close?

A dual timeline will provide the answers we crave.  The first reveals a story that was played out between 1939 and 1940, and the second describes the unusual events of New Year’s Eve 2015.  Both timelines are set in and around the mysterious house of Salt Winds, situated on the edge of a village and surrounded by the ominous Tolbury Marsh.

The events of the past are revealed to us through Virginia’s clouded, ten-year-old perspective.  She’s a quiet and awkward child, trying to find her place in this house of unspoken secrets; trying to make sense of the strange and confusing behaviour of the adults around her.  Hardly surprising then that in her confusion, she makes a mistake in 1940, which has heart-breaking repercussions, and impacts on her for the rest of her life.

This is such an atmospheric and evocative novel.  In my opinion, it stands out for a number of reasons; the skill with which Elizabeth Brooks creates the characters and the setting; and the way she crafts the novel to ensure that we have unanswered questions right until the last sentences.  I closed the book with a real sense of “Wow!”

After reading the book, I read that Elizabeth Brooks describes herself as a “Brontë nerd”.  It was a light-bulb moment for me!  Brook’s descriptions of Tolbury Marsh conjured up a very Bronte-esque landscape and atmosphere.

This book is one that I am sure I will reread, and love all over again – maybe even a bit more because I will be able to languish in the language and appreciate its brilliance.  Next time, I will read it in the depths of winter, when the wind it howling outside the house.

If you love a beautifully written book, set in a mysterious house, with a host of flawed characters full of secrets, this is one for you!

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.

Elizabeth describes herself as a “Brontë nerd”.  Call of the Curlew is her homage to the immersive and evocative writing of Charlotte Bronte.




3 thoughts on “The Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks

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