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.