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Triss wakes up after an accident which resulted in her being pulled half-drowned from a river near the cottage where she is staying with her parents and her younger sister Pen. But something isn’t right, Triss has changed in ways she doesn’t understand, and she needs to travel to some dark places to find out what’s going on and, more importantly perhaps, who she is.
Why did I want to read it?
I’ve had Cuckoo Song on my eTBR for a while but it was only when it was nominated for the first James Herbert award that I pulled it forward to read. I was intrigued about what could be in an ostensibly children’s book that got it onto that nominee list.
What did I think of it?
This is definitely a slow burner of a read, but incredibly atmospheric and once the world that Triss finds herself in has been established the plot really kicks off and builds to a very satisfying climax. Without being too spoilery, it’s clear from very early on that our Triss isn’t the real Triss but some form of changeling, and the question is how and why that has happened and to what ultimate purpose. So we get into some complicated family dynamics, parents who have become overprotective of their children because of the death of their only son in WWI, resentment between siblings, frustration at being hemmed in and the bargains people will make to get what they think they want without any real thought for the consequences.
It’s set in a version on 1920s England that has a steampunk aesthetic (at least that’s how I thought of it) but also a sense of there being another world of strange creatures sitting just to the side of the real world that our characters inhabit. There’s cruelty and kindness of all kinds, but the main impetus of the story is not-Triss trying to establish some form of identity for herself while trying to put right the things that have been done with her as an unwitting participant. And it has a really cool bad guy.
It took a little while for me to get into the story, and I actually set it aside for a bit until I was in the right frame of mind for this dark and unsettling fairy tale, but I’m glad I went back to it because it is a really well-written and effective story with some genuine horror at its heart.
I am counting this towards both Once Upon a Time IX (for the fairy tale and fantasy elements though it wasn’t on my planned reading list), and 2015 Horror Reading Challenge (because of the James Herbert nomination).
I have at least two more (possibly three) of Hardinge’s books and I will be sure to read them given how much I came to like Cuckoo Song.
Reading still a bit slow this week though, having briefly set it aside because I really wanted to finish it but wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind, I galloped through the second half of Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song which was very enjoyable in a dark and creepy sort of way 🙂
But this week, because I was only at work for two days and the rest of the time I was on a break, I have mainly been binge-watching TV on my iPad which has been very relaxing.
I still haven’t started my reading for Once Upon a Time IX but have at least selected the book I’m going to start with, so that’s progress of sorts, and I’m considering whether the Hardinge could be included in this challenge (given it’s about a changeling) as well as the horror reading challenge. I probably won’t decide until I actually sit down to write my review.
I have pulled Child 44 from my TBR pile so that I can read it in advance of the film being released in the next few weeks, but good grief it’s grim and depressing and I’m only working through it very slowly indeed.
I’ve bought four or five books this week though it’s worth pointing out that two of them were pre-orders. I also managed to walk into a physical book shop and after some browsing walk out without buying anything. I had to lie down in a dark room afterwards to cope with the shock 😀
All back to normal this week, so hopefully more reading time.
So, in order to take part in the Cornflower Book Group for April 2015 I committed myself to reading Jane Eyre, an undoubted classic by Charlotte Bronte which I had never read before. I had about 10 weeks to read it, and I dragged my feet dreadfully, partly for good reasons and partly because, as I admitted to myself earlier this weekend, I just didn’t want to.
So, it is officially abandoned after only 4 chapters.
I was very happy to make that decision but I started to wonder why this was, and I have come up with what appears to be a slightly uncomfortable truth – women’s writing from the 19th century *whispers* just doesn’t appeal.
Now I don’t mean all women – I’ve read and enjoyed the two other Bronte sisters, and I’ve read Charlotte Perkins Gilman and if we throw in children’s books then Louisa May Alcott and Susan Coolidge spring to mind as great favourites. And I don’t think it’s an aversion to pre-20th century works – I’ve read Dickens & Collins, Tolstoy & Trollope, amongst others. It’s just….
Well I’m not sure what it just is, but I have a confession to make; more than one actually:
- I just wanted to slap Jane Eyre, and I have tried and failed to get very far with Villette or Shirley (sorry Charlotte, but you’re a bit of a prig)
- I have tried really hard with Jane Austen, but the only one of her novels I came close to liking was Northanger Abbey, and I’ve only ever managed to finish Emma and Mansfield Park, and both were a bit of a struggle. I just don’t like Austen and I get puzzled by the adoration she receives
- I abandoned both Ruth and Cranford very early on so that’s it for Mrs Gaskell
- I have tried to read Middlemarch twice and failed both times, ditto The Mill on the Floss (sorry George Eliot); Middlemarch is the one I’m most disappointed with myself for not finishing
I’m not sure it evens things out, but I have never got on with Thomas Hardy either.
So, I’m going to admit that when it comes to the classics I have a bit of a blind spot, and I’ll just have to learn to live with the shame 🙂
What’s The Burning Man all about?
Still under the auspices of the City of London Police, Bryant & May and the remainder of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are pulled into the investigation of the death of a homeless man during anti-capitalist protests in the city. The man was killed when a bank (in whose doorway he was sleeping rough) is firebombed. But of course there is much, much more to it than that, as an apparent random act is followed by other deaths by fire that indicate that someone is using the rioting as a cover for a protest of his own.
Why did I want to read it?
As I’ve said ad nauseam on this blog, I love these books and look forward to each one, snaffling it as soon as it’s published. Added frisson this time as I got my copy signed (see more of that below), and it might be the last we see of the PCU in this form. Which will be sad if true.
What did I think of it?
Another great story, as always full of plausible events with a strong sense of place and a delight in the characters, building on years of development but never (I think) shutting out the new or casual reader (though of course you always get more out of a series when you read them in order IMHO). And once again Christopher Fowler brings London to life with details of its history and legends underpinning the plot. For a start I am going to have to go and find Crutched Friars next time I’m near the Tower. And it was great to have a relatively rare foray outside of London, to visit the bonfires of Lewes on Guy Fawkes Night. The Book God is a Sussex man and I’ve had the opportunity to see a number of these amazing bonfires being constructed, though never been there on the big night itself, so interesting to see them incorporated into the story in such a significant way.
But back to the story; I was slightly anxious reading this as it seemed that the series was coming to an end, and although the thing that I feared did not come to pass there are significant changes for a number of members (actually probably all of them now I come to think of it) of the PCU. I understand there’s going to be a collection of short stories later in the year but this may very well be the last novel, which makes me sad.
As I mentioned I was lucky enough to get to Forbidden Planet on publication day to finally meet Christopher and get my book signed. He was as lovely and charming as I had expected and it was a real treat to meet him after more than 20 years of reading his books (I first read Darkest Day on holiday in Istanbul in 1993), and I hope to be reading them for many more years to come.
Reading slumped a bit this week and I haven’t read anything much at all over this Easter weekend, which is a shame. But I did finish reading the new Christopher Fowler novel (Bryant & May and The Burning Man) and thoroughly enjoyed it (though I haven’t written my post on it just yet).
I completed the TBR Double Dog challenge; my wrap-up post is here if you’re interested in how I did. I also completed the King’s March challenge and was pleased with the three novels and two short stories I read in the month. I really like these shorter, more focused challenges and may look out for some more.
I still haven’t started my reading for Once Upon a Time IX but have at least selected the book I’m going to start with, so that’s progress of sorts.
Oh, and I did write up the first quarterly update on my progress with the 2015 Horror Reading Challenge which you can find here. I was slightly astonished at the number of horror titles I’ve read since the beginning of January, I must really be in the mood for the darkness 🙂
I am still reading the Hardinge novel which I’m now about halfway through. But I have decided to abandon both Jane Eyre and The Voyage Out; I just don’t have time to spend on books I’m not enjoying. I know I’ll come back to Woolf in the future, as I keep on talking about a major re-read of her works, but I may write a DNF post on the Bronte to talk about why I’ve given it up.
So the self-imposed book-buying embargo finished on 31 March and I did indeed go on a bit of a spree, downloading a number of eBooks. It was very enjoyable and nice to carry out a major refresh of my TBR stack but I’m not going o make a habit of it 😀 (says she, fingers crossed!)