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Call of the Curlew

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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 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...


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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 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...

30 review for Call of the Curlew

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Somehow it doesn’t seem quite right that I’ve been reading Call of the Curlew sitting in my garden in the bright sunshine.  The atmosphere of the book is such that it seems more suited to misty autumn nights, with the rain lashing down outside and the wind rattling the window panes.  Throw in some creaking floorboards, some footsteps in the attic and your reading experience would be complete. Told in chapters that alternate between 2015 and the early years of the Second World War, Call of the Cur Somehow it doesn’t seem quite right that I’ve been reading Call of the Curlew sitting in my garden in the bright sunshine.  The atmosphere of the book is such that it seems more suited to misty autumn nights, with the rain lashing down outside and the wind rattling the window panes.  Throw in some creaking floorboards, some footsteps in the attic and your reading experience would be complete. Told in chapters that alternate between 2015 and the early years of the Second World War, Call of the Curlew has a haunting, mysterious quality.  Salt Winds, the old house at which orphan Virginia arrives in 1939 to join her adoptive parents, Lorna and Clem, occupies an isolated position on the marshes at the end of a long lane. The author really gets inside the mind of ten-year old Virginia.  Initially, she’s concerned that she might be a disappointment to Lorna and Clem and be sent back to the orphanage (although she doesn’t think they do sale and return).  Virginia doesn’t understand everything she sees and hears in the house but she’s sensitive to the tension she detects between Lorna and Clem.  ‘Virginia liked it when they discussed everyday things: pots of tea and food prices and what needed doing in the garden.  It made them sound peaceful and close.  Anything bigger or more personal and they were on edge, like a couple of cats.’  Underlying everything, there’s an air of mystery, of secrets and things that can’t be spoken about. Virginia also has a child’s literal interpretation of Clem’s warnings about the perils of setting foot on the marsh and the dangers that wait because of the shifting tides.  Virginia forms a touching relationship with Clem who seems better able to communicate with a child than Lorna.  Virginia’s relationship with Lorna is strained; Lorna always remains slightly distant and less openly affectionate.  Virginia has also acquired an acute sense of how to deal with certain situations: ‘Shutting up was almost always a clever move, she’d discovered, not just with Clem but with everyone.  People rarely object to a quiet child.’ From the very first time, Max Deering, a childhood friend of Clem, visits Salt Winds, ten-year old Virginia takes an instinctive dislike to him, sensing something unsettling about him she can’t put into words.  Her view of Max can’t help but affect the reader’s view of him, especially as the manner of his arrivals at the house conjured up thoughts for me of Mrs Danvers gliding in and out of shot in Hitchcock’s film version of Rebecca.  Virginia muses: ‘It was difficult to explain the car’s pull on her imagination – not without sounding silly – but there was something about its predatory grace that made it seem like a living thing.  The lane from Tollbury Point to Salt Winds was pitted with holes and bumps, but Mr Deering’s Austin 12 never seemed to mind. It just glided forwards, silent and slow, the way a shark glides over the ocean floor.’  I loved the author’s evocative, imaginative descriptions and eye for the smallest details when depicting a scene.   For example, as Virginia makes meticulous plans in response to what she believes is the sign she’s been waiting for, ‘She pictures the house, room by room, and plots the route of her farewell tour, mentally circling certain parts and crossing others out.’    Don’t you just love the idea of the ‘farewell tour’.  Or this description of the kitchen table: ‘The old tabletop rolled between them like a parchment map, grainy with longitude lines and knotty islands and uncharted territories.’  I can almost feel that under my fingers. As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that some sort of tragedy occurred at Salt Winds which has haunted Virginia for the rest of her life and for which she feels, justifiably or not, responsible and for which she is convinced she will someday be called to make amends.  The enjoyment for the reader is finding out exactly the nature of the tragic event and the consequences that follow. I thought the book was fabulous.  To my mind, in Call of the Curlew, Elizabeth Brooks gives Susan Hill (think The Woman in Black) and Sarah Waters (think The Little Stranger) a run for their money when it comes to creating a creepy, unsettling atmosphere.  I was also reminded at times of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and there is no higher praise in my book (pardon the pun).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Park

    There’s nothing I like better than a dual timeline mystery and Call Of The Curlew is definitely one of the best I have read. The book is very atmospheric with the descriptions of the bleak, eerie marshes adding to the feeling that anything could happen. The bleakness seems to creep in side the house and affect the people living there, making them act very strangely at times. The reader is aware almost from the start that something is not quite right with the house and the situation but is largely There’s nothing I like better than a dual timeline mystery and Call Of The Curlew is definitely one of the best I have read. The book is very atmospheric with the descriptions of the bleak, eerie marshes adding to the feeling that anything could happen. The bleakness seems to creep in side the house and affect the people living there, making them act very strangely at times. The reader is aware almost from the start that something is not quite right with the house and the situation but is largely kept in the dark about what it might be.  The facts are slowly and tantalisingly revealed as the story unfolds in a way that is very well done by the author.  I was very intrigued and wanted to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. The characters are very well created and developed well throughout the book.  I’m not sure if I particularly warmed to any of them though I did feel sorry for them and the situation they find themselves in.  Virginia was an interesting character very astute and capable one moment but very childlike at other times, even when she’s an 85 year old.  She obviously adored Clem which was very touching to see and her pain over what happened is very palpable, I did really feel for her then.  Max Deering is a great characters as he is very unlikeable and smarmy at times.  I wanted him to get his comeuppance and not get the ending he obviously wanted. This is Elizabeth  Brooks’s debut book and I really can’t wait to read more from her in the future. If you like atmospheric, dual timeline mysteries with some great characters you’ll love this book. I felt this book was similar in style to The Taxidermist by Kate Mosse so if you liked that book I think you’ll enjoy this one. Huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the blog tour and to Hannah Bright for my copy this book.  This is definitely going on my keep forever shelf!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Penny (Literary Hoarders)

    Truly, a 3.5 star book. Atmospheric at times, too loose in others and I felt the switches from 1941 to 2015 were too quick, so did not allow for real meaty development of the suspense or of the story - of Virginia's story and very loose and not a strong sense to the "What happens next is something Virginia will regret for the next seventy-five years, and which will change the whole course of her life." Because, truly, it doesn't happen "next" and there isn't a strong development of changing the Truly, a 3.5 star book. Atmospheric at times, too loose in others and I felt the switches from 1941 to 2015 were too quick, so did not allow for real meaty development of the suspense or of the story - of Virginia's story and very loose and not a strong sense to the "What happens next is something Virginia will regret for the next seventy-five years, and which will change the whole course of her life." Because, truly, it doesn't happen "next" and there isn't a strong development of changing the course of her whole life - because that is never fully discussed or developed. It comes about at the very, very end of the book, so definitely not regrets we hear of over the seventy-five years. Am I babbling? Not making sense? It was a good story, a good debut, but there were a few wobbles for me, or too many loose developments/not fleshed out as much as I would have thought there should/would be - there is an overall sense of just that little something is missing to really pull this together to be a strong 4-star read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Beadyjan

    Great book - review to follow as part of blog tour.

  5. 3 out of 5

    Abby Slater- Fairbrother

    Call Of The Curlew is another novel released this year with phenomenal characterisation. The character of Virginia Wrathmell slowly captivates your heart, as you turn the pages. It is quite tricky to explain, as we don’t just meet the 86yr old Virginia, but we meet her at 11yrs old and watch her come of age in difficult circumstances. The novel opens with Virginia in the present day. It is New Years Eve and she is waiting for a sign. A sign of her death…… on the marsh. When it arrives in the unus Call Of The Curlew is another novel released this year with phenomenal characterisation. The character of Virginia Wrathmell slowly captivates your heart, as you turn the pages. It is quite tricky to explain, as we don’t just meet the 86yr old Virginia, but we meet her at 11yrs old and watch her come of age in difficult circumstances. The novel opens with Virginia in the present day. It is New Years Eve and she is waiting for a sign. A sign of her death…… on the marsh. When it arrives in the unusual fashion of the skull of a Curlew. I didn’t grasp the significance straight away. But it becomes very clear as the novel progresses and on the last few pages. December 1939, saw Virginia’s arrival from Sinclair house a local orphanage to Salt Winds. Where she is finally brought to live with her adopted parents Clem and Lorna Wrathmell. Virginia doesn’t instantly bond with Lorna, that will come much later. But her instant love and affection for Clem, is beautiful to see. She meets Bracken the dog and Mrs Hill the cook. Life at Salt Winds, seems to be one of luxury, Virginia has previously unknown. Clem is sure to issue a stark warning to Virginia about the dangers of the marsh. . . “Tollbury Marsh is good for birds but bad news for people, so you must promise me that you’ll not set foot on it. Never ever’ – Clem With every great story comes a great villain and this novels villain is Max Deering. He is rude, obnoxious and full of self-righteousness. Virginia took an instant dislike to him and she isn’t the only one. However, this being 1939 people weren’t so quick to ignore or distance themselves from their neighbours. They relied upon them intensely during the war and the home front effort was evident throughout history. So, the Wrathmell’s find it increasingly difficult to keep Max from their door. As he continues to darken it. There is a particular incident with Mr Rosenthal, a German Jew is belittled by Max and spoken of as though he is unworthy. I suppose due to Virginia’s upbringing in an orphanage this strikes a chord with her. it becomes something she will never forgive Max Deering for. Back to the modern-day 2015 and Virginia sees the arrival of an uninvited guest at Salt Winds. Sophie is a young woman claiming to be lost upon the marsh paths. Something Virginia knows to be untrue and yet serves to make her further grumpy. She reluctantly invites in her new guest. ‘The Curlew has reminded her how to hate’ – Virginia In June 1940 Max Deering suffers a personal loss when the train carriage carrying his daughter Juliet is bombed. Leaving Max alone with son Theodore. This pushes the Deering’s closer to Salt Winds, much to Virginia’s disgust! She is invited to Theodore’s 11th birthday party and sets off on the walk with her father Clem. When he spots an enemy plane fallen down upon the marsh. Despite the great risk to himself, Clem decides to attempt to save the enemy. Clem is never seen again. A search party is organised. Yet no sight of Clem can be seen. An optimistic Virginia remains adamant he will return. It is at this point Virginia and her adoptive mother begin to bond. It is a relationship that is beautiful to watch develop but is not without its dangers from outside predators. “We cannot afford to make an enemy of Max Deering” – Lorna As Mrs Hill begins to lose her patience with Lorna, old secrets are brought to the surface. Virginia learns more and more about her adoptive parents and their pasts. Then the women must unite as they rescue Mr Rosenthal. They hide Jozef Rosenthal in the attic, away from Max’s prying eyes. But is Jozef who he says he is? In the modern-day Sophie makes some confessions about her own ancestry when she spots her grandfather on a photo in Virginia’s house. It would appear young Sophie has a tie to Virginia’s past too. This novel is simply beautiful 4*

  6. 4 out of 5

    booksofallkinds

    Dark, tense, and with a haunting atmosphere from beginning to end, this dual timeline novel really grabs a hold of you and sucks you into the drama. When Virginia Wrathmell goes to live with Clem and his wife Lorna in 1939, she immediately connects with her new father and struggles to feel the same way about Lorna. And then there is the unusual atmosphere that lingers over the marshland and the place that will be her home, Salt Winds. This place and its inhabitants oozes secrets and pain as Virgi Dark, tense, and with a haunting atmosphere from beginning to end, this dual timeline novel really grabs a hold of you and sucks you into the drama. When Virginia Wrathmell goes to live with Clem and his wife Lorna in 1939, she immediately connects with her new father and struggles to feel the same way about Lorna. And then there is the unusual atmosphere that lingers over the marshland and the place that will be her home, Salt Winds. This place and its inhabitants oozes secrets and pain as Virginia will soon discover. Fast-forward to the present day and Virginia is now in her eighties, living in Salt Winds, and waiting for a sign that her time has finally come. When she finds the remains of a curlew on her doorstep it is exactly what she has been waiting for. Until an unexpected visitor changes her plans and brings the past bursting to life again in unexpected ways. Gripping, uncomfortable at times, and very compelling, CALL OF THE CURLEW by Elizabeth Brooks is a stunning and evocative story that transports you to a different time and place effortlessly. The characters are almost hypnotic in nature yet not very likeable but this only adds to the nature of the book. ​ CALL OF THE CURLEW by Elizabeth Brooks is beautiful in its prose and I immersed myself in this story to the very end. Definitely a book to add to your buy list! *I voluntarily reviewed this book from the tour organiser

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rona

    What a beautiful book - both inside and out this is a little masterpiece and something which will have a special place on my bookshelves. It tells the story of Virginia, an orphan who was adopted by a couple who lived in a big old house on the marshes. The book gives us a mystery - why does 86 year-old Virginia think she will meet her death on the marshes and what is the sign that tells her now is the time? The story is then told in alternating now and then chapters to great effect, giving us sus What a beautiful book - both inside and out this is a little masterpiece and something which will have a special place on my bookshelves. It tells the story of Virginia, an orphan who was adopted by a couple who lived in a big old house on the marshes. The book gives us a mystery - why does 86 year-old Virginia think she will meet her death on the marshes and what is the sign that tells her now is the time? The story is then told in alternating now and then chapters to great effect, giving us suspense and mystery, feeding snippets of information one crumb at a time. I loved every minute of this story, it was so well written, the descriptions so clear that I was there in that big old house. I was the child and the old lady. It was brilliant! And such believable characters, especially Max Deering, who was such a creepy, horrible man I could hardly bear to read about him. Five stars and more from me!

  8. 3 out of 5

    Rakie Keig

    A haunting, atmospheric and ever-so-chilling novel, set partially in present day but mostly seventy-five years ago, with a beautifully bleak setting (isolated house in the middle of an expansive saltmarsh). It reminded me in many ways of great gothic novels like THE WOMAN IN BLACK. Very much recommended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jo Barton

    Call of the Curlew begins at Salt Winds, on New Year’s Eve in 2015, as eighty-six year old Virginia Wrathmell takes stock of her life. Her discovery of a fragile bird’s skull seems to act as a portent and a catalyst for what happens next. Moving seamlessly between two time frames, the story starts in 1939 when Virginia was first taken to live at the house on the marsh. Adopted by childless couple, Clem and Lorna Wrathmell, Virginia makes her home with them on the edge of Tollbury Marsh in the hou Call of the Curlew begins at Salt Winds, on New Year’s Eve in 2015, as eighty-six year old Virginia Wrathmell takes stock of her life. Her discovery of a fragile bird’s skull seems to act as a portent and a catalyst for what happens next. Moving seamlessly between two time frames, the story starts in 1939 when Virginia was first taken to live at the house on the marsh. Adopted by childless couple, Clem and Lorna Wrathmell, Virginia makes her home with them on the edge of Tollbury Marsh in the house known as Salt Winds. The salt marsh around the house is an eerie and disquieting sort of place and Virginia is warned never to go onto the marsh as the shifting sands are potentially lethal. There’s a strange sort of atmosphere about Salt Winds, which comes not just from its occupants, although, there is no doubt that, Clem and Lorna an odd couple, but it is also in their unusual involvement with their neighbour, Max Deering, which adds an extra and rather creepy dimension to the story. There’s a real sense of uneasiness in the way that Salt Winds seems to enfold everyone in a web of silence and this air of disquiet never really goes away, creeping insidiously throughout the whole of the story like a ghostly wraith. There's a dark secret at the heart of the novel, a moment fractured in time when the atmosphere in the house stood still and lives were changed on a whim. I was so emotionally connected to the characters by this point that I felt the change quite acutely, and such is the pull of the story that I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened had another choice been made. Beautifully written from start to finish, Call of the Curlew has a wonderfully melancholic air about it which captures the very essence of the place and the people so perfectly that there is never a moment when the story doesn’t come alive. The brooding nature of the marsh nestles alongside that of the house itself which is such an integral part of the plot that Salt Winds becomes a vital and important character in its own right. There is no doubt that Call of the Curlew is a stunning debut. From the beauty of its evocative cover, to the glory of its content, it is one of those special stories which, as you read, makes time stand still, so that you forget the here and now and escape willingly into the magic of a good story, beautifully told.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie Turner

    It is 1939 and ten-year-old Virginia arrives in her new home on Tollbury Marsh. After spending so long at the cold orphanage, Salt Winds appeals to Virginia, the freedom and space to roam allowing her a new pocket of life to explore. Met with adoptive parents warm, kind-hearted Clem and cool, poised Lorna, Virginia swiftly settles in at Salt Winds, feeling out a new rhythm in life and treasuring the moments of discovery and affection she shares with Clem. But not everything is safe and assured. It is 1939 and ten-year-old Virginia arrives in her new home on Tollbury Marsh. After spending so long at the cold orphanage, Salt Winds appeals to Virginia, the freedom and space to roam allowing her a new pocket of life to explore. Met with adoptive parents warm, kind-hearted Clem and cool, poised Lorna, Virginia swiftly settles in at Salt Winds, feeling out a new rhythm in life and treasuring the moments of discovery and affection she shares with Clem. But not everything is safe and assured. The marsh is a dangerous, desolate place and she is warned to keep away but Virginia can’t help but feel fascinated by it. When tragedy steals into life at Salt Winds, Virginia finds herself once more on the cusp of change. And everything she holds dear will begin to alter around her. 2015 and now Virginia is eighty-six-years-old. Lonely and resigned, she keeps to herself and locks out the world. The sign she has been awaiting for most of her adult life finally arrives one day on her doorstep. And here, where it began, it will end. Her demise is something she has imagined and planned countless times. She will say farewell to Salt Winds, pay tribute to the memories of her childhood and evacuate the shambling house to meet her fate. But first she will have to face something she hadn’t expected. Elizabeth Brooks weaves a brilliant web of mystery and intrigue with Call of the Curlew. Her evocation of the diverse characters and the grim, eerie location and how it evolves through Virginia’s life is rich in detail. This book goes back and forth between two timelines. I loved following the two narratives as they unfolded. It was fascinating to see such a contrast in Virginia, how events in 1939 mould the woman she is to be in 2015. Max Deering is a cruel man who torments Virginia as a girl and his memory will continue to do so through the years, until it reaches a pinnacle on New Year’s Eve, when the sign she awaits finds its way to her doorstep. Call of the Curlew is an atmospheric, haunting and simply stunning novel from Elizabeth Brooks! I was hooked from beginning to end. I grabbed every moment I could to read this book. I can’t wait to read more by this author! Chilling. Haunting. Riveting.

  11. 3 out of 5

    Helen

    I enjoyed this book - lovely writing mostly, although the excessive use of similes jarred with me at times. I liked the characterisation of Virginia - the fact that so much of her life was not revealed to the reader actually fitted well with the story - but Lorna was almost too spineless to be believable. The hardback cover was exquisitely beautiful and each time I picked it up to read I spent time enjoying the cover first - one of the nicest cover designs I have ever seen on a fictional novel - I enjoyed this book - lovely writing mostly, although the excessive use of similes jarred with me at times. I liked the characterisation of Virginia - the fact that so much of her life was not revealed to the reader actually fitted well with the story - but Lorna was almost too spineless to be believable. The hardback cover was exquisitely beautiful and each time I picked it up to read I spent time enjoying the cover first - one of the nicest cover designs I have ever seen on a fictional novel - well done to who ever designed it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Louisa Jones

    A solid 5 from me. Wonderful tone, gripping story, an original and enchanting finish.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Novels And Nonfiction

    https://novelsandnonfiction.com/2018/... What I Liked The atmospheric setting. As I mentioned in the intro, I read Call Of The Curlew during an LA heat wave, but thanks to Brooks’ writing, that didn’t stop me from becoming immersed in the mystical backdrop of Tollbury Marsh. The AC at full blast in my apartment probably helped a little, but the novel easily transported me to a foreboding and bleak sliver of English countryside, battered by the elements and and hostile to the uninitiated. The marsh https://novelsandnonfiction.com/2018/... What I Liked The atmospheric setting. As I mentioned in the intro, I read Call Of The Curlew during an LA heat wave, but thanks to Brooks’ writing, that didn’t stop me from becoming immersed in the mystical backdrop of Tollbury Marsh. The AC at full blast in my apartment probably helped a little, but the novel easily transported me to a foreboding and bleak sliver of English countryside, battered by the elements and and hostile to the uninitiated. The marsh feels like the perfect setting for a horror novel through protagonist Virginia’s eyes when she first arrives there as a child – a great place to bury, or in this case lose, the bodies. By the end of the book, however, it’s grown into an inescapable extension of her life – part of her past and fatefully part of her future as well. The writing and dual plot line. The novel alternates between 1939-1941, starting when Virginia has just been adopted by Lorna and Clem and arrives at Tollbury Marsh to live with them, and then 2015, when she’s still living in their old house at 86. The chapters that make up the 2015 timeline are shorter than those set in the past, but they also have more action to them. Going back and forth between timelines really helped prop up the pacing of the novel, which otherwise is a little slow in my opinion (more on that below). I was also impressed by the complexity and depth of Brooks’ writing. There are plenty of historical novels out there that feel superficial in their execution, but the prose in Call Of The Curlew makes the novel feel like it’s an effective mid-point between classic English literature and a contemporary literary novel. Virginia. One of my favorite things about the novel is that much of it is written from the point of view of a girl of about 11 or 12, and those chapters of the novel feel authentic to the protagonist’s age. Virginia’s reactions to the situations she encounters in her first few years at Tollbury Marsh, her thoughts and words, are believable and realistic for a girl of her age at the time. There’s confusion in her mind when confronted with the machinations of the adult world, a fumbling lack of self-assurance when dealing with life’s greater mysteries, but also a sense of budding rebellion that foreshadows her transformation into a tenacious and self-sufficient woman. Of course, the reader is not privy to most of the vicissitudes of Virginia’s life that bridge her tween and elder years. Still, seeing where Virginia ended up in the flash forwards helps to further contextualize the story of how her childhood years at Tollbury Marsh influenced her. What I Didn't Like The pace and unresolved elements. Halfway through the book I realized that I wasn’t sure if it was truly a mystery or literary fiction. To qualify as a mystery, I think it would need to have more plot twists and a faster paced plot than it actually does. It also falls just shy of true literary fiction, because though it definitely has some character development, it doesn’t feel like one of the primary focuses of then novel. I also felt that the ‘mystery’ of the marsh and of Virginia’s feeling that she was fated to perish there on New Year’s Eve was not resolved in a way that felt satisfying to me as a reader. There are near magical elements in the novel and threads woven to lead into the direction of an explanation for the pull the marsh has on Virginia, but the author doesn’t connect all of these threads together in a conclusive or compelling way for me at the end. Final Verdict Evocative historical mystery for which a slight lack of plot and slower pace are more than made up for by the transporting setting, intriguing characters and beautiful writing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Beverley

    I had a small problem when reading this book, namely, I wasn’t sure how on earth I could write a review that would do it justice. I can wax lyrical about this novel and if you’re (un)lucky enough to be a friend of mine I am probably going to be banging on about Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks for a while so batten down the hatches and apologies in advance! Set both in the present day and the early years of World War 2 we meet Virginia as a young girl and as a woman in her 80s. She moves to I had a small problem when reading this book, namely, I wasn’t sure how on earth I could write a review that would do it justice. I can wax lyrical about this novel and if you’re (un)lucky enough to be a friend of mine I am probably going to be banging on about Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks for a while so batten down the hatches and apologies in advance! Set both in the present day and the early years of World War 2 we meet Virginia as a young girl and as a woman in her 80s. She moves to Salt Winds, a remote house built on marshes, when she is adopted by Clem and Lorna Wrathmell. She creates an immediate bond with Clem, a kind, loving man who adores her as much as she adores him, but her relationship with Lorna is strained and cool. They are largely removed from the war until one day Virginia and Clem spy an enemy aeroplane crashing on to the marshes leading to a series of events that will have long-lasting effects upon Virginia. I loved Virginia, really, properly adored her. She is a wonderful character who is incredibly well-crafted and I fell head over heels. I loved young Virginia in particular. She is an innocent and quite naive but incredibly loving. Her relationship with Clem is wonderfully written and perfectly executed and we see the relationship between Clem and Lorna through the eyes of Virgina which was fascinating to read. Theirs is a complicated marriage, with secrets at its heart and the tantalising glimpses of it via the viewpoint of a young girl who doesn’t quite understand what is happening is at once both gripping and infuriating. This is a book with a mystery at its heart. Modern day Virginia is profoundly affected by the past and the events that took place all those years ago. She receives a visitor in the form of a teenage girl who seems to have links to Salt Winds which allows us to unpick the complicated tapestry of her past. This is incredibly well done with clever mirroring of past and present. Adult Virginia at first glance appears incredibly different to her younger self but as the book progresses and we learn more about her it is clear that some similarities remain. It is the strong characterisation that makes this book such a compelling read. Not only do we have Virginia, Clem and Lorna but there is the kindly and at times mischievous housekeeper, Mrs Hill and, the villain of the piece, Max Deering. Oh what a villain he is. He oozes smarm and whenever he was mentioned there was a general sense of unease. He is almost cartoon like with slicked back hair, a moustache that looks painted on and a face that is “white and shiny, like a Cheddar cheese”. I absolutely hated the man but I adored the descriptions and the way Elizabeth Brook evoked such a strong feeling within me. The main character in this book isn’t Virginia however, it is Salt Winds. This is a house which is a keeper of secrets, lies and betrayal. Only accessible via a long drive it stands on the headland isolated by the marshes. The chapters that are set in the past have an almost other-worldly feel to them whilst the modern descriptions of the house make the house sound like a museum that has been abandoned. There is such a wonderful sense of place and compelling descriptions which made my toes curl in pleasure. The passages of the weather in particular were truly excellent. The snow has been falling in dribs and drabs since Virginia woke up, but it’s coming more heavily now. It’s as though net curtains are being drawn across the view, one by one, veiling the village, and the marsh, and the lane.” I love a book that has a time jump and a dual narrative and I do have a soft spot for books set during WW2, books which contain a remote house and books that have a hint of mystery so Call of the Curlew ticked many, many boxes for me. It is also brilliantly written with beautiful and evocative passages that I had to re-read and highlight (my paperback is full of index tabs and sticky notes) and I am gobsmacked that this is a debut novel as it is so accomplished. It is an incredibly beautiful book which I couldn’t put down and couldn’t stop thinking about and is one of my books of the year. If you like Kirstin Hannah and Kate Morton then you will love this. It is brilliant written with great storytelling and world building and it is so exciting to read a debut of such strength. It gets five shiny gold stars from me.

  15. 3 out of 5

    Emma

    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 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!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Thelastwordreview

    The first thing that will draw your attention to the book is the incredible cover design. This is down to the magic of Leo Nickolls. Just one of the best covers this year. Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks is set on the bleak windswept Tollbury Marshes, eighty-six-year-old Virginia Wrathmell has spent all her life here, but she knows the end is near. It is New Year’s Eve 2015 and as she stands looking out over the bleak marshes holding the skull of a Curlew she is remembering something that The first thing that will draw your attention to the book is the incredible cover design. This is down to the magic of Leo Nickolls. Just one of the best covers this year. Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks is set on the bleak windswept Tollbury Marshes, eighty-six-year-old Virginia Wrathmell has spent all her life here, but she knows the end is near. It is New Year’s Eve 2015 and as she stands looking out over the bleak marshes holding the skull of a Curlew she is remembering something that happened many years ago. A powerful and evocative story of loss and of guilt and the how the past can live with you forever. Virginia was adopted by Clem and Lorna as the war arrived in 1939. But Virginia has been haunted by an event during those early days of WWII that has loved with her all these years and now as New Year’s Eve 2015 has arrived she knows that this will be her last day. During those early days of WWII, a German aircraft crashed on the marsh and Clem attempts to rescue the pilot. From that moment life for Virginia has changed forever. No clues from me here as to what happened but I have to congratulate the author on a quite superb atmospheric and haunting novel. There really is something about Call of the Curlew that will attract readers of novels by the Brontë’s indeed Elizabeth Brooks call her novel “her homage to immersive and evocative writing of Charlotte Brontë”. Marshes have real character I speak from much experience here, and this plays a real part of this outstanding story. An ever changing part of the landscape through the seasons but also one of real and present danger. I totally loved Virginia the main character. But the other characters you will meet Elizabeth Brooks weaves them so brilliantly into the storyline. Some you will warm to others you may not. Call of the Curlew is a story that I totally loved and one that I know many are going to love just as much as I have done. 320 Pages.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karen Mace

    Wow! I wasn't expecting that kind of book when I picked Call of the Curlew up! I knew it was going to be atmospheric and haunting but I just didn't expect it to be so chilling and have such a menacing atmosphere throughout - I loved it! I loved the way the story goes from now to then - all through the eyes of Virginia, a character you can't fail to to empathize with. From her start in life as an orphan who is thrust into a world with new parents, through to the now when she's 86 and alone and pr Wow! I wasn't expecting that kind of book when I picked Call of the Curlew up! I knew it was going to be atmospheric and haunting but I just didn't expect it to be so chilling and have such a menacing atmosphere throughout - I loved it! I loved the way the story goes from now to then - all through the eyes of Virginia, a character you can't fail to to empathize with. From her start in life as an orphan who is thrust into a world with new parents, through to the now when she's 86 and alone and preparing for the end and is haunted by things that have happened throughout her life as she looks back. And even when she thinks she's seen the last of her past it has a way of showing up to haunt her one last time. As a child it is clear she idolises her new 'dad' Clem, and they bond over the marshes and his life of wildlife. As the war began to infringe on their quiet lives, it is also apparent that the marriage of Lorna and Clem isn't as strong as it appeared to be. I have also now discovered one of the most despicable characters in literature - Mr Max Deering. Even typing his name has my skin crawling and that is how I felt when reading about him whenever he was in the life of Virginia, Lorna and Clem - her adoptive parents. There just seemed no escaping him no matter how hard they tried to rid themselves of him, and he was one of those people who always appeared to be a pillar of society in the company of others - a completely different beast if he happened to catch you alone..... repulsive!! I was transfixed throughout this story as it was full of so much mystery and intrigue,and I even thought the ending was clever as it could be interpreted in many ways depending on your own assumptions and I really enjoyed that approach. Some books look to wrap everything up nicely in a neat little package, and I'm glad this author chose a different way to deal with a complex story. Amazing!!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Set on the isolated saltmarshes during WWII, this is an atmospheric, gothic style mystery novel. Virginia is 10 when Clem & Lorna Wrathmell collect her from the orphanage. It doesn't take her long to feel the undercurrents between Clem and Lorna as well as those with Max Deering. Widower Max owns the manor and likes to feel that he owns other things besides. One New Year's Eve a German bomber comes down out on the marshes and Clem goes out to rescue the pilot. Life is never the same again fo Set on the isolated saltmarshes during WWII, this is an atmospheric, gothic style mystery novel. Virginia is 10 when Clem & Lorna Wrathmell collect her from the orphanage. It doesn't take her long to feel the undercurrents between Clem and Lorna as well as those with Max Deering. Widower Max owns the manor and likes to feel that he owns other things besides. One New Year's Eve a German bomber comes down out on the marshes and Clem goes out to rescue the pilot. Life is never the same again for Virginia. This is one of those books set in two time periods - the present day where we meet Virginia as an old lady still living at Salt Winds House on the saltmarshes. The other follows Virginia from her first trip from the orphanage to her new home. The author made good use of the dual time periods with each story unfolding and revealling things which are relevant to the other. Thankfully the author has given us good chunks of text in each thread before reverting to the other. Each chunk is clearly defined and there is no confusion. The author makes good use of language in describing the atmosphere caused by both the people involved and the surrounding saltmarshes. I could clearly feel the underlying tension in the house as young Virginia starts to understand the complexities of adult relationships. There is much that is not explained in detail but hinted and alluded to so that each reader can come to their own conclusions. This is not a book which is neatly tied up at the end. Not everything is explained and the reader is left with several things that require their own interpretations. Different readers could interpret things in very different ways. I enjoyed this book very much.I would certainly look for other books by this author. I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Orláith

    Call of the Curlew is the debut novel of Elizabeth Brooks and it is simply wonderful. I've been struggling to find the motivation to read recently and this book has given me the kick start I needed. I picked it up this morning and finished it in time for lunch. It tells the story of Virginia Wrathmell, both as a newly adopted 10 year old at the beginning of World War Two and as an 87 year old woman looking back on the event in 1940 that changed her life forever. I know a lot of people don't like b Call of the Curlew is the debut novel of Elizabeth Brooks and it is simply wonderful. I've been struggling to find the motivation to read recently and this book has given me the kick start I needed. I picked it up this morning and finished it in time for lunch. It tells the story of Virginia Wrathmell, both as a newly adopted 10 year old at the beginning of World War Two and as an 87 year old woman looking back on the event in 1940 that changed her life forever. I know a lot of people don't like books that jump between times, but the author has written this wonderfully. She has used this method to slowly give the reader just enough information to keep us hooked. Without giving away spoilers, the book has quite an ambiguous ending that I feel fits very well with the overall air of mystery. I like that even now I'm left guessing. A quick search for the authour has informed me that she has signed a 2 book deal with Transworld and already I'm looking forward to whatever she comes up with! Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a free copy of Call of the Curlew.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Neil Challis

    Jumps between 1940 and 2015,Virginia is an orphan and taken in by Clem and Lorna who live in a remote cottage on the edge of a Salt Marsh which is full of danger.In 1940 a plane crashes in the Marshes and the dynamic changes.There is a neighbour,Max Denning who wanted to marry Lorna but she declined and he has always been resentful,turns his attention to the very Young Virginia who looks after herself. Cleverly written and the action moves between the years by,but when a young girl ,Sophie,arrive Jumps between 1940 and 2015,Virginia is an orphan and taken in by Clem and Lorna who live in a remote cottage on the edge of a Salt Marsh which is full of danger.In 1940 a plane crashes in the Marshes and the dynamic changes.There is a neighbour,Max Denning who wanted to marry Lorna but she declined and he has always been resentful,turns his attention to the very Young Virginia who looks after herself. Cleverly written and the action moves between the years by,but when a young girl ,Sophie,arrives at the house on the same day that Virginia has decided her life will end of this day,New Years Eve 2015.Call of the Curlew is named after a story written for Virginia by................................?

  21. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Virginia is adopted by Clem & Lorna Wrathmell in the early 1940s when she is 10 years old. They live on the edge of a marsh, which Clem insists Virginia should never cross. The story flicks between 1940/1 and 2015, following Virginia as she recalls her childhood and in the now, finding a curlew skull on her doorstep, so she knows its time to leave her family home. Whilst it was a pleasant story and an easy read, it didn't over excite me in its overall story. Its set in World War Two and briefl Virginia is adopted by Clem & Lorna Wrathmell in the early 1940s when she is 10 years old. They live on the edge of a marsh, which Clem insists Virginia should never cross. The story flicks between 1940/1 and 2015, following Virginia as she recalls her childhood and in the now, finding a curlew skull on her doorstep, so she knows its time to leave her family home. Whilst it was a pleasant story and an easy read, it didn't over excite me in its overall story. Its set in World War Two and briefly touches on it with a train being bombed and a German war plane crashing on the marsh. I received this book from netgalley in return for a honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    A beautifully written book with lots of intrigue. Really wanted to keep reading to tie up loose ends and find out where all of the threads were leading. Very ethereal and mystical. Found the ending a little bit abrupt and obscure which is why I couldn’t give it 5 stars. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable read.

  23. 3 out of 5

    Katie Baker

    On a bit of a roll with books at the moment. Loved this one too. Great writing and a gripping story although I thought it tailed off and lost its way a bit in the last 50 pages which is why it got 4 instead of 5.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    A beautiful book. I read it in one sitting.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Smith

    A wonderfully atmospheric book which kept me gripped throughout.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sheena

    Beautiful, clever, involving and emotive. It ticked all my boxes. I just loved it.

  27. 3 out of 5

    Bookish Chat

    Firstly thank you to Anne Cater for the opportunity to be involved in the blog tour for Call Of The Curlew. I'm so honoured to be involved as this really is a stunning book. I'm writing this review having just closed the book and I still have the shivers going down my spine. My mind is a whirr of thoughts and I'm desperate to talk to people about it! Even the first 4 lines of the synopsis gave me the shivers: Virginia Wrathmell has always known she will meet her death on the marsh. One snowy New Yea Firstly thank you to Anne Cater for the opportunity to be involved in the blog tour for Call Of The Curlew. I'm so honoured to be involved as this really is a stunning book. I'm writing this review having just closed the book and I still have the shivers going down my spine. My mind is a whirr of thoughts and I'm desperate to talk to people about it! Even the first 4 lines of the synopsis gave me the shivers: Virginia Wrathmell has always known she will meet her death on the marsh. One snowy New Years Eve, when she is eighty-six, a sign arrives that the time has finally come. The book opens on New Years Eve when 86 year old Virginia receives the sign she's been waiting for every New Years Eve since she was 12 years old. The tiny skull of a Curlew bird on the doorstep of Salt Winds, her childhood home on the periphery of Tolbury Marsh. Resigned to her fate, Virginia starts the painstaking process of sorting out her belongings and saying her final goodbyes to the rooms of Salt Winds. The rooms that hold so many memories from her childhood, most of them upsetting, distressing and full of grief, fear and remorse. From here we travel back in time to the beginnings of Virginias life at Salt Winds when as a 10 year old orphan she is adopted from a children's home by writer Clem Wrathmell and his wife Lorna. All against the backdrop of the beginnings of the Second World War. Right from the outset during the journey from the orphanage to Salt Winds, Clem and Virginia's relationship is so heartwarming and genuine. Lorna struggles with her new role as 'mother' despite Clem's feeling that adopting a child will improve their marriage. There's very obvious tension and underlying resentment in their relationship which becomes particularly strained when Mr Deering, Clem's childhood friend and apparent adversary visits the house. Virginia is ill at ease when Max Deering is around. His apparent hold over Lorna, his unwanted attentions and unhealthy interest in young Virginia. Why has Clem asked Virginia to keep an eye on Lorna and Mr Deering and report back to him anything unusual? Why does Lorna seem a little afraid in his presence? One quiet afternoon on the marshes when thoughts of the war raging on couldn't be further from Clem and Virginia's minds, a German fighter plane loses control and crashes into the marsh which sparks devastating events set to change the future of Virginia, Clem, Lorna and Salt Winds. I don't really want to say much more than that plot wise as you really need to discover the wonder of this book yourselves. Each chapter alternates between Virginia's childhood and 2015, with Virginia preparing to meet her fate out on the marshes. This book has everything I love. A dual timeline narrative, a house with secrets, dark deeply flawed characters and skeletons in the closet. A family saga that has far reaching consequences into the present day. The depiction of Salt Winds and the marshes themselves were just perfect. I had the house sitting in my minds eye in detail right from the first chapter. The atmosphere of the marsh, the damp foggy landscape, the almost constant whip of the wind was just so atmospheric. Each and every character is expertly written, robust, visceral and perfectly formed. Mr Deering is just deplorable! Lorna is such a fascinating character with many layers, I really wanted to discover more about her, complex and slightly unreachable in a tantalising way. Virginia is such a feisty, tenacious character. At times she seems older than her 11/12 years. She's astute and tunes in to the changes in atmosphere between the adults. Virginia in the present day is somewhat resigned to her fate but still harbours thoughts of revenge and retribution against the Deering family. I feel as though my words alone will not do this story justice. It is one of those books that grabs you from the outset. I was initially reading it in small chunks because I had a genuine fear of it ending. Then I just tore through it, desperate to bring it to a conclusion. The tension builds perfectly and the ending which I was almost too scared to read incase it didn't bring a satisfactory conclusion was just breathtaking. (I had no real basis for this fear other than the rest of the book had been so perfect I was scared the ending wouldn't stack up and my bubble would be burst!). The last paragraph gave me actual shivers. I'm still recovering now! I urge anyone and everyone to read this book. I already know it will be in my top 10 books of 2018, if not the top 5.......hell maybe even number 1! It'll be special book indeed that beats this one to a place in my heart. A well deserved and 5 stars from me without a doubt. Just stunning.

  28. 3 out of 5

    Mistress #darklings

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anna Handy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jillian Matthew

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