Review of The Cottingley Cuckoo by A.J. Elwood

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.

As a person who was captivated by the story of the Cottingley Fairies growing up I was excited to start reading this book and I’m grateful to Titan books for sending me a copy for review, however, this was a book that wasn’t a great fit for me.

The book is split into two parts both are interspersed with one sided letters from a Mr Fenton who is corresponding with a representative of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which are used as background to the main plot and serve to drive the story forward as the tale unfolds. The first part I enjoyed the most, the start of the unsettling ability that Charlotte Favell had to get under Rose’s skin, but Rose sadly was a character that I was unable to really warm to. She was deeply unsatisfied with her life and therefore ripe for the twisted fancies of a bitter old woman, I was surprised at how easily she became ensnared but that fed into Rose’s desperation to be something more. The story did well at maintaining an air of menace and unease, playing off the plausible fantasy of someone who wants to believe.

However for the second part I just felt mostly confused, the lack of post natal care troubled me and whilst it worked to serve the purpose of the story, as someone who personally suffered from PND I felt that lack of accountability perhaps poorly researched. This sadly distracted me from the story as Rose became more and more frantic and pulled into the story Charlotte Favell had woven, she worked in a place filled with health care professionals who were seemingly oblivious to her erratic behaviour. Thinking about it the second part felt more like one woman’s struggle to survive an illness whilst caught in a web of cruelty.

I enjoyed the writing style for the most part, the subtle way the letters show a spiral descent was well played out and it managed a creepy feel throughout, I just struggled to get on board.

3*

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