Jane Rusbridge has followed her excellent debut novel: The Devil's Music with this exquisitely written and thoroughly enjoyable second novel 'Rook'.
Nora, a cellist, has returned to Creek House, her family home in Bosham, a beautiful village on the West Sussex coast, where she attempts to put incidents from her recent past behind her. Nora's mother, Ada, an emotionally fragile and somewhat embittered woman, is not entirely welcoming, and instead of giving her daughter the love and support she needs, she immerses herself in her own fragmented memories and imaginings of the past, as she wanders in her overgrown garden where the scent of her French cigarettes mingle with the enticing aromas of the sea.
With the need to put her past behind her, Nora fills her spare time by running along the creek paths leading to the sea with the sound of cello concertos reverberating in her mind, and by volunteering to help with village life. One day she finds a half-dead baby bird, and feeling a connection with the bird's injured state and needing a project, Nora immerses herself in nursing the young bird back to health. And while Nora is occupied with her injured bird, other events occur which provide further distractions when a film crew, headed by a rather charismatic documentary maker, arrives in the village to make a film about an eleventh century king who is believed to be buried under the floor of the parish church. Bosham, we discover, has important and fascinating associations with the past and, as tales of ancient battles, rivalries and burials are revealed, Nora and Ada find themselves confronting difficult issues from their own pasts that are very painful to deal with.
Jane Rusbridge has portrayed the beauty of the natural surroundings at Bosham and along the Sussex Coast wonderfully, and this is a superbly crafted story by an author who has a talent for evoking a real sense of time and place and of reminding us of the layers of history lying beneath the present day. A brilliantly observed, atmospheric and sensually written story and one that deserves more than one reading, so it's a novel to keep on your shelves for further future enjoyment and to share with others.
on 10 October 2012
After the wonderful, The Devils Music, I couldn't wait to read ROOK, Jane Rusbridge' second novel. I preordered it from Amazon and cleared the decks for its arrival. When it did arrive I tore it from the parcel and found this beautiful book, the front cover has a picture of Nora, standing amongst a building of rooks. yes building, I looked it up. Anyway there are rooks in the air all around her. Nora has returned home to Creek House next to the village of Bosham, on the Sussex coast. Nora rescues an injured rook and nurses him back to heath, she names him Rook. Her mother Ada lives in the house and is a bitter old woman with a secret. Nora has been away from home. She is a gifted cellist and while at collage, then performing, has had an affair with her older and charismatic teacher. Nora has secrets too. There is so many wonderful layers to this book, from the opening scene of a mid eleventh century battlefield to the same ground in the twenty first century and Jonny, an outsider who wants to make a documentary about King Cnut and an attempted archaeological dig in the little church of Bosham. The characters are all fantastically written and the family story of Nora, her sister Flick, Felicity and their parents is wonderfully revealed as the the book reaches its end. This has been a hard review to write, no matter what I say about ROOK, it couldn't with my limited skill, do it Justis. I think Jan Rusbridge is something special and we may look back in years to come and realise this. I hope she writes many more books and gets the acclaim she deserves today.
Footnote. you can also have a parliment of rooks, I like building.
on 28 May 2013
Rook was an incredibly well-written book, a beautiful tapestry in itself with descriptions so wonderfully lucid, It reminded me of poetry! It was easy to become quickly absorbed in the atmospheric setting of this story, from the early historic battle scenes to the present day scenario across the coastal plains of Sussex. The characters too had a depth you could feel, with highly charged emotions which reveal the complexity of human nature - most poignant of all for me, was Nora's nurturing instinct to care for the fledgling `Rook' - a deep bonding, combined with a maternal drive, which was not fully explained until right at the end of the book, (which for me was a real 'Eureka' moment.)
Although she was described as 'a fragile, bitter woman' in the synopsis, I took a shine to Nora's Mum, Ada - she struck me as being rather sweet, a little confused maybe, but with an eccentric personality which endeared her to me. I was more disappointed by Nora's lovers, both of whom came across as men who were shallow and vain - where even 'Rook' himself seems to have sussed out the egocentric Jonny, the one character determined to dredge up the secrets of Bosham church to make his TV documentary! But I did develop a soft spot for the straight-talking Harry, a loyal friend to both women.
The link between history (portrayed in both the Bayeux Tapestry and the mysterious tomb in Bosham church) is an enthralling storyline in itself which kept me wanting to turn the pages. If I had the time, I would gladly read this all over again, this is how much the author captivated me. A wonderful book for anyone, especially those familiar with Sussex and the beaches around Bosham. This book was given to me as a Christmas present.
on 21 January 2013
Nora, a concert Cellist, returns home after an incident a year earlier which has left her broken and unable to play. She is haunted by the memory of a man, older than she, with whom she had an affair which, we believe, ended badly.
Her mother, obsessed with the glamour of her past and making the most of her fragility to take advantage of all who would help her, is less than welcoming.
One day Nora comes upon an injured fledgling rook by the side of the road and feeling a bond between the injured bird and herself, takes him home to care for.
Burial - whether physical or metaphorical - is a theme which runs through the book: whether it is Nora attempting to bury the past by running daily and caring for Rook, her mother trying to hide aspects of her earlier life and loves or the young documentary maker who visits Nora's village to investigate the location of the buried daughter of King Cnut.
Birth in another recurring theme - Rook is a baby, Nora's friend has a young child and is pregnant with her second. These themes complement each other beautifully and handled with Rusbridge's expertise, they are the structure which holds this beautiful and haunting tale together.
The author's light, descriptive prose is a delight to read. Her descriptive passages are prose poems which bring to life a countryside with which she is obviously very intimate.
As I read the book I was unaware just how well the author weaved the various elements of her book together until the shocking and heartbreaking end.
Ms. Rusbridge leaves us with hope for Nora and her future and it is a tribute to the author that I cared about this character enough to want her to have a happy and more fulfilled future.
I loved this book and found myself shedding a few tears at the end. I couldn't recommend Rook more highly.
on 22 December 2012
I absolutely loved Jane Rusbridge's first novel, The Devil's Music, so I was very much looking forward to Rook. And what a treat it turned out to be!
Nora, an accomplished cellist, returns to Creek House, her childhood home in Bosham, West Sussex in order to come to terms with the break-up of her relationship with Isaac, her teacher and mentor. Nora attempts to fill the hole in her life by running near the sea and giving cello lessons to local children. But it is only when she comes across a half-dead baby rook in a ditch that her life begins to regain a sense of purpose as she nurses the fragile creature back to health. Rook, as she calls him, becomes a strikingly present character in this novel and is wonderfully described, both as a sick baby bird, and later as a rather feisty adolescent:
Nora has secrets; she has lost Isaac, and seems to have abandoned a promising musical career, but we don't know exactly why. What has driven Nora to return to Creek House and a mother with whom she has a strained relationship, to say the least? Ada, whose memory is fading and who spends increasing amounts of time in the past, has secrets of her own. She is bitter and self-centred, and she's tetchy and snippy with Nora. The tension between them thrums throughout the novel.
There is little comfort here for Nora and perhaps this is why, with the help of Harry, the quietly perceptive odd-job man who works for Ada from time to time, she focuses her attentions and affections on Rook, whom she nurtures until he becomes less a cute baby bird and more an intelligent, perceptive and protective force to be reckoned with.
The theme of things being buried and uncovered runs through the novel as the relationships between the characters and the secrets they harbour are examined against a backdrop of an even bigger excavation - the potential exhumation of the body of King Cnut's illegitimate daughter, who is buried in the local church.
A novel of complex relationships and the uncovering of buried secrets; the language is lyrical and the rhythm of the prose melodic, reflecting the music that is so much a part of Nora. This novel made me want to listen to cello music and then run out to the woods to watch the rooks; As with The Devils Music, the landscape is beautifully evoked. Jane Rusbridge has an incredibly sharp eye for detail, both in terms of nailing the aspects of a character's personality, and also in terms of the imagery. This is an exquisitely written, atmospheric and deeply affecting novel.
on 30 November 2012
I loved Jane Rusbridge's stunning debut , The Devil's Music and approached her second with some trepidation: afraid it couldn't possibly live up to my expectations. Well, I needn't have worried because Rook is another wonderful novel and I enjoyed it even more than the first.
The book is set in the small seaside village of Bosham: a place where the threat of flooding and drowning is as present now as it has been through the ages. Nora, a brilliant cellist haunted by a failed love affair and a secret guilt, has forsaken her career and returned to live with her mother, Ada, in her childhood home. As she struggles with her demons, Nora attempts to provide an anchor for Ada's wandering mind, but her presence only serves to remind the older woman of her own secrets.
Nora's long dead father, an archaeologist, called her his Saxon princess because of her white-blonde hair. He excavated the tomb of an illegitimate daughter of King Cnut in Bosham's little church. Now a TV documentary maker wants to shoot a film about the king and the drowned child he loved so much. The reader already knows there will be more to it than that because the story begins, not in the present, but in the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings as King Harold's lover, Edyth, finds his corpse.
Time swirls and eddies through the novel like the sea around the village or the flights of rooks that Edyth and Nora observe and that are pictured on the book's gorgeous cover. Although it deals with death and loss, the story is far from gloomy. Rook himself is a tiny bird, rescued and reared by Nora, and as the narrative moves through the seasons he begins to heal. But what makes the whole thing so enriching is the vivid beauty of the writing that captures so well the watery landscape and the sounds of cello music, of the sea, and of course the call of the rooks.
on 15 November 2012
This is an atmospheric and beautifully written contemporary novel set in Bosham, West Sussex. Nora, an accomplished cellist, returns to her childhood home in Bosham to live with her elderly mother Ada. At first it's unclear why Nora has returned and if she plans to stay. Ada is a realistic portrayal of a once glamorous woman drifting in and out of her memories, yet determined to remain independent and in control of her daughter. Their relationship is at times petulant and painful, rarely slipping into sentiment, which made it believable.
Jane Rusbridge weaves the past, both ancient and recent, into the present by creating images for the reader using all senses. At times I could almost smell the approaching tide and hear the screech of rooks. Her writing is reminiscent of the early novels from Penelope Lively and the poetic narrative style of Helen Dunmore. Reading this it did feel as if every sentence had been a labour of love for the author.
Nora rescues and nurses a fledgling rook with the help of Harry, a local handyman and artist. Harry is a quiet, understated character throughout the story, yet he is the solid, dependable hero who always seems to appear for Nora and Ada whenever disaster strikes. He's almost an echo of the noble, Saxon warriors who haunt the beginning and end of the book.
The legend and myths of the Bosham church are also woven into the novel, along with theories on the Bayeux tapestry and the grave of Harold II (famously killed at the Battle of Hastings). A pushy TV documentary producer, who initially seems to help Nora bury the ghost of an influential ex-lover, stirs up and divides the local community with his obsession to dig up the church and open ancient tombs in search of the truth. Triggering Ada to remember the original excavation by her famous archeologist husband and his tragic death.
Gently and sensitively the tightly held secrets of both Nora and Ada become exposed, almost as if we (the readers) are archeologists prising them loose from the pages. We learn the poignant significance of Rook in Nora's life and understand why saving him was so important to her. And we realise why she abandoned her music and previous life so dramatically. We also learn the truth about Ada and her past, which she never fully shares with Nora.
on 9 October 2012
I picked this novel up after reading a positive newspaper review. It will be one that stays with me for a while as I found I liked her atmospheric style of writing. She writes as if you were reading that particular character's thoughts, flickering from the past to the present, not chronologically. Very descriptive and interesting regarding Rooks and Saxon history - I feel I've learned something! I found the lack of understanding between mother and daughter very true to life. I've enjoyed discovering her characters, they felt very real to me. I will now read her first novel "The Devil's Music".
on 16 July 2014
Rook explores some familiar themes such as love, adultery, motherhood and old age. But the book is not just another novel about the human condition. Rusbridge skilfully weaves multiple layers into a sumptuous narrative to create a truly original and bewitching story.
Nora, the central character, is a professional cellist who has moved back to her mother’s Sussex home after the breakdown of a relationship. Nora’s mother, Ada, is an absolutely fascinating and poignant character. It’s heartbreaking to read her attempts to recreate her youth as she succumbs to dementia.
Bosham, the coastal setting for the book, is rich in Saxon history. The locals’ attempt to piece together the ancient mysteries of the village (encouraged by a flashy young documentary maker) provides another compelling strand to the story.
There is music too – Nora’s affinity with the cello is particularly affecting – and, of course, there are birds. The Rook of the title is an injured fledgling which Nora rescues and nurses back to health.
I found some of the descriptive writing in Rook quite breathtaking. It’s a beautiful, melancholy read and I savoured every page.
on 8 November 2012
I bought this book after enjoying the author's first, 'The Devil's Music', and also because I am a big fan of Rooks, so I suppose I had high expectations, and I must say that I was not at all disappointed. It is one of those books you find hard to put down and is written with such illustrative description that the story becomes as clear as a film in your mind. The characters have real depth, and you find yourself wanting to get to know them better, especially as there is a slight veil of mystery to begin with, making the book even more of a page-turner. The relationship between Nora and her mother is particularly interesting. As the story unfolds I was incredibly touched, and moved to tears by the end. What's more is that you feel yourself learning about English history which I always enjoy in a novel. Finally, I was not disappointed with the role of Rook - Jane Rusbridge brilliantly captures the intelligence and character of the bird, which served to further endear the story to me. I thoroughly recommend this book.