Call Of The Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks
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.
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*