When Rose learns that her childhood friend is in crisis, she doesn’t hesitate to invite her into her idyllic home in the English countryside. However, when Polly arrives with her two young sons, Rose quickly begins to regret her generosity. As Rose’s seemingly perfect life begins to fall apart at the seams, and Polly’s influence over Rose’s husband, Gareth, increases, lifelong secrets and resentments begin to rise to the surface.
I enjoyed this novel immensely. It is a well-observed and gripping account of a life-long friendship turned toxic. It does at times risk slipping into the default ‘Madonna/Whore’ dichotomy, what with the extremely sexual Polly’s abominably bad parenting, and wholesome Rose’s middleclass housewifery, but this is rescued to some extent, I think, by Rose’s character: she certainly begins as the devoted ‘Madonna’ type, indeed, seems to relish in positioning herself as some kind of ‘Country Living’ cover-star (the Aga, the hens, the Le Creuset) but as the novel develops, so does she. Cuckoo felt to me a little like a grown-up version of Anne Fine’s brilliant The Tulip Touch, a YA novel which I recently reread (coming to a blog near you soon!) and would highly recommend to teen and adult readers alike. Cuckoo is Crouch’s first novel. I’ve been delighted to discover whilst putting together this review that many more have followed, and will certainly be checking them out in the near future.