Review #31: The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood

The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliot Wright

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Publication date: 21 February 2019

I obtained a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cornelia Blackwood is about to do something very wrong, for a reason she believes to be right.
She has a loving marriage but she has no friends.
Everyone knows Cornelia’s name but no one will speak to her now.
Cornelia has unravelled once before. What could possibly happen to her next?
An urgent and important novel of love, loss, tragedy and daring to hope again.

I picked up this book from Netgalley back in May last year because it intrigued me and the synopsis doesn’t reveal much at all so it’s fair to say I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this novel.

Cornelia Blackwood is a woman approaching her fourties, whose life hasn’t been kind. When her husband dies unexpectedly in a car crash, she is left childless and with no real family of her own apart from her in-laws. To make matters worse she soon finds out that her late husband had a child with another woman. Led by grief and conflicting emotions, Cornelia decides to befriend said woman in a desperate attempt to meet her husband’s son.

Cornelia’s character is deeply unlucky and when we meet her, she is overwhelmed by grief at the loss of her husband. The story alternates between the present time and Cornelia’s (better known as Leah) memories which help paint a picture of her life before her husband’s death and the deep connection that they had.

As the book goes on, we realise how harsh life has been to Leah. Even though she has a loving relationship with her husband, they are struggling to start a family. After a miscarriage and a stillborn, Leah is left deeply scarred. But when daughter Harriet finally comes along, Leah is so determined to protect her precious baby that she slowly develops a condition known as post-partum psychosis and she starts to behave abnormally and obsessively.

In the present timeline however, we know that Leah was left childless after her husband’s death so there is this constant question at the back of the reader’s head of what happened to Harriet? We can also see Leah start to develop obsessive patterns and behaviours around her husband’s child, that she feels needs to be a part of her life.

This is a novel that is very deeply emotionally charged and it made me feel all kinds of emotions. At the beginning and through most of the book, my heart deeply ached for Cornelia as I struggled to imagine what it would be like to want a family so much only for life to take it away from you every time. But when Harriet came along, the feelings of intrigue took over, only to be replaced by concern once Leah starts behaving oddly. I will admit that towards the end of the novel there were times where I hated Leah as much as I hurt for her, and I just wanted to scream at her to stop.

This is a very moving novel that sheds light on a condition that is not often talked about. While we’ve all heard of post-partum depression, post-partum psychosis isn’t often discussed and it is alarming because if undiagnosed it could have harmful consequences. Even though the author makes a point of stating that Leah’s case was taken to the extreme for the purposes of entertainment, I still believe it is a subject that needs to be addressed and that people need to be aware of. For this, I am really glad that this novel was written, not only was it extremely entertaining but it also conveys an important message that the world needs to know about.

Review #16: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

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Publication date: 18 September 2018

I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Imagine you wake up one morning in the middle of a forest, with no recollection of what happened the night before, or even who you are… and when you find your way back to safety in an immense country house called Blackheath, everyone there seems to know you but you have no idea who they are. Imagine that shortly after that, you encounter a mysterious messenger who explains to you that someone is going to die tonight, and that the only way you can escape this place is by solving their murder… what would you do? Run away or start investigating?

Aiden Bishop is trapped in Blackheath where, inevitably, Evelyn Hardcastle will meet her death each night at 11pm, unless he can solve her murder and break the cycle. To do so, Aiden is given eight days and eight “hosts” (guests to inhabit for one day). If he cannot solve the murder in the time given, his memories will be wiped and the cycle will begin again. But Aiden isn’t the only person trapped in Blackheath. Among the guests are two other persons, just like him, investigating to save their lives. But only one of them can escape…

Blimey, this book was insane! If I had to define it I would say it’s a crossover between Groundhog Day and Agatha Christie or even a mix between Pride and Prejudice and Criminal Minds. Blackheath is a huge estate owned by the Hardcastle family and on the 19th anniversary of their son’s death, the lady of the house decided to throw a party, inviting the very same people that were present 19 years ago when her son died. It reminded me of Agatha Christie in the way that the action is set in one place and all the characters are the same throughout the book. It’s also set in a time where maids and servants were still a thing hence the Pride and Prejudice vibes. It also reminded me of Groundhog Day because Aiden repeats the same day again and again until solving the murder, and of Criminal Minds because the story gets dark really quickly and Aiden will have to observe the guests’ personalities and habits to help in his investigation.

The story is incredibly complex, there are endless characters, each with their own quirks and background stories and we go through so many clues trying to solve Evelyn’s murder that it is impossible to keep track of them all (but in a good way, like where they stay somewhere in your brain and start to make more sense as the story advances). This is a book that made me guess, page after page, what was going on as it took me through Aiden’s investigation and I tried to decipher the clues. I had a few different theories at some point, but the book outsmarted me every time and this is my favourite kind of book, where it makes me think really hard until I eventually have to give up and admit that the only way I’ll make sense of it is to just read on.

It’s a pretty long book (over 500 pages) and reading it in a week was a challenge but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The story is so complex that it needs the pages to unfold itself, and every single chapter is a cliffhanger. Once again, I am very surprised that this is a debut novel, as it is astonishingly brilliant. So much work (and post-it notes!) must have gone into it!

The only criticism I have about this is that I could have done with a floorplan of the country house since it is huge and it’s sometimes hard to picture it all in your own mind, but after snooping around on Amazon I realised that the book actually does have a floorplan, it’s only my advanced copy that didn’t, so I guess I can’t even fault it on a single thing.

If you’re into your murder mysteries, do get your hand on it, you won’t be disappointed!

So, what was your favourite book this summer? For me, it’s a toss up between this one and The Psychology of Time Travel that I read the other week.