ARC, Book Review

The Cottingley Cuckoo by A.J. Elwood

Firstly, a huge thank you to Titan Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Captivated by books and stories, Rose dreams of a life away from the confines of the Sunnyside Care Home she works in, until elderly resident Charlotte Favell offers an unexpected glimpse of enchantment. She keeps an aged stack of letters about the Cottingley Fairies, the photographs made famous by Arthur Conan Doyle, but later dismissed as a hoax. The letters insist there is proof that the fairies existed. Rose is eager to learn more, but Charlotte allows her to read only a piece at a time, drawing Rose into her web. As the letters’ content grows more menacing, Rose discovers she is unexpectedly pregnant, and feels another door to the future has slammed. Her obsession with what really happened in Cottingley all those years ago spirals; as inexplicable events begin to occur inside her home, she begins to entertain dark thoughts about her baby and its origins.

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This book was a much darker read than I initially expected and that is just one of the aspects that completely drew me into this book. I was sneaking chapters of it between every day responsibilities because I was entirely captivated by Rose and the mysterious Mrs. Favell. I really liked Rose and was endeared to her very early on when we see that she has much larger dreams than the life that she is having to live. Whilst she keeps telling herself it’s only temporary you can’t help but wonder if she will have to give these dreams up for other responsibilities. Additionally, the fact that she is new at Sunnyside care home also made her feel relatable. Most people know what it’s like to be new at a job, not quite sure of where you fit and you have yet to get a good read on those around you. 

From the moment she starts her new job you’re aware that there’s something different about resident Charlotte Favell. The other staff at Sunnyside all seem to be in on an inside joke around Mrs. Favell, one that Rose isn’t privy to. At first she appears to be a cold, and bitter old woman, one who seems to take a liking to Rose to the amusement of the other members of staff. I was fascinated by Mrs. Favell and her strange behaviour; how at one point you think you understand her but then something else may call that into question. I loved the way Elwood subtly illustrated how much of an imposing and influential figure she was. How easy it is to be drawn in by Mrs. Favell once she sets her sights on you. 

I loved how mysterious this plot was and how it gradually evolved throughout the novel. Although it was a little slow to begin with, as soon as the plot and the history of the characters began to unravel the pace started to quicken, especially in the second part of the novel. What starts as an enchanting and magical read, starts to take a darker turn. I felt it was very reminiscent of original fairytales: how, on the surface, they appear to be a tale of magic but hide something far more unsettling underneath. I enjoyed how the novel would change from Rose’s perspective to the letters from Mr. Fenton to Mr. Gardener regarding his discoveries. I like how it felt that with each one we were getting closer to solving the mystery of what was going on. Additionally, I thought it was very effective to tell the story in this way as it makes it far more understandable why Rose is as taken with the story and with Mrs. Favell as she is. Having the letters tell the story of the past rather than Mrs. Favell gives more of a feeling of truth behind it. 

Overall, I loved this novel and the amount of depth it had with both plot and the characters. This story enchants its readers and will have them thinking about the book long after you’ve read the spine chilling final line. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.
www.blackwells.co.uk

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