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3.9 out of 5 stars127
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 2 March 2011
At first glance you can't help but think it's going to be one of those books that you get to the final few chapters and you could predict the end and I don't think the phrase on the cover "their first mistake was inviting her in..." helps it.

But I am happy to say that I made that fatal mistake of thinking I could predict the end and I even said to my partner - 'I so know where this is going' - which would have been a shame but I should have known better because nothing in the book had been a formula, nothing had been predictable. Every scene was set beautifully and I was able to envisage the house, the setting and characters as if I was looking at a film of my feet through the water of a Caribbean beach. Crouch really did her research as the details are amazing!

The book was captivating and always left me wanting more and more and more. I read this book in four sittings (without doubt a record for me) and I finished if off with a bottle of 'good' wine! The use of the word 'good' will become apparent when you read the book.

Crouch's command of English and her imagination works incredibly well together. I had my partner as a 'on-tap' dictionary as I needed his help with the meaning of some of the words as I had not come across them before. This for me was great as one of the reasons I read is to broaden my vocabulary. I found myself discovering things about the main characters in the middle of the book which would have normally been mentioned at the start. I liked this aspect of the way she developed characters and wanted to read more to see what new information I could find out.

The main character grew up in Brighton together with Polly her best friend so it was nice to see some familiar places featured (The Pier, The Honey Club, Queens Park where I used to live) just to name a few. The book has all the making of an excellent read, main characters that you love and can relate to, family life including love, disappointment and even being abandoned, strong friendship, love, sex, guns, drugs, and 'good' wine to name a few.

Crouch has created an amazing debut book! I don't want to give anything away, but all I can say is if you love reading and you love the idea of celebrating excellent work get a copy of this book as I'm sure you'll be talking about for weeks to come and getting it for friends as presents! It's just one of those books!

I woke this morning with the thought of the book still fresh with me and a craving to read the book again in a week's time to ensure I got everything. I look forward to reading more from this author in years to come.

§ham
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on 15 March 2012
An excellent debut thriller. Some quirky, some weak and some spiteful characters, a fair bit of backstory.
The only slight criticism is that I didn't think the epilogue added much to the book.
I would buy another Julia Crouch, worth watching
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on 23 January 2013
I wasn't quite sure if I was going to enjoy this book at first but it drew me in and after a few chapters I couldn't put it down. I was intrigued by the friendship between the two women and I loved the ending. Will there be a sequel?
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First of all this is a book about friendships. It focuses on the relationship between Rose and Polly. Friendship has nothing to do with it. it's about feeling that someone has helped you but for the wrong reasons! This book was far too long. I found Rose a bit annoying because when Polly wasn't very nice, Rose didn't tell her to leave because they are friends - So!!!!! if I had someone in my house who I thought might have hurt my child they would be out. I wouldn't walk around on tenterhooks worrying and sneaking around.

There were bits of this book which were good - the writing style is good and I was never actually bored. I just because fed up with how weak rose appears. No one would put up with a friend like Polly even if she knows secrets from your youth which aren't terrible secrets to keep from your husband - Rose seemed paranoid about this. Having a child that she gives away isn't a crime and was before she was married so none of anyone's business.

Towards the end of the book - the Brighton trip seemed really rushed. it sort of happens in a few pages and then everyone is home again. The final few chapters aren't very good and I found then a little thrown together. For example when Polly and Gareth threaten to put Rose away - there is nothing to back that up.

When Rose finally accepts that Gareth and Polly have been together, she tidies up and goes back to bed. why wasn't he thrown out along with Polly? To me, none of this would have been allowed to carry on - children or not.

I think this book did have promise but was too much of everything so got lost towards the end.
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on 28 December 2013
Cuckoo is a surprising, frustrating, engrossing psychological thriller. I added this to my holiday reading list, having seen it recommended by Sophie Hannah - one of my favourite authors of the genre - so I had high hopes. And, while I perhaps wasn't quite as bowled over by this debut as I was by Little Face, I found myself thinking about the unresolved questions and trying to explain the complicated plot to my other half several days after finishing it, which for me is a sign of a good book.

Rose and her husband Gareth have moved away from London and created a picture-perfect life for themselves in the countryside - big renovated farmhouse, impeccably well-behaved daughters, plenty of money (despite him being a not-overly-successful artist and her being a stay-at-home mum) to enjoy the finer things in life. So, when Rose discovers that her oldest friend, Polly, has recently lost her husband, Gareth is wary of upsetting their idyllic existence by inviting Polly and her two sons to stay.

But Rose insists, opening up her home to Polly, Nico and Yannis. Everything seems to go surprisingly well: Gareth and Polly manage to be civil towards one another; the boys - though a little more `feral' than Rose's daughter Anna - are challenging and charming in equal measure; Polly is obviously still grieving and on medication, but seems to be recovering in her new surroundings with Rose's help. Even when an accident results in Rose spending a few days away in hospital, the repercussions don't appear to be as bad as she might have feared. Until she returns home, that is, and begins noticing changes. Just how far has Polly infiltrated Rose's perfect home and family? Is she really to blame for the fact that Rose's life is unravelling at the edges? Or is Gareth right to be worried about Rose herself?

Everything is told from Rose's third person perspective, and there is no omniscient narrator to fill in the gaps or answer the questions. We as readers become confused and disoriented alongside Rose, one minute convinced that Polly is deliberately wreaking havoc on her life and the next recalling the depth of this friendship and telling ourselves that it's just paranoia. The whole novel is unsettling; even the epilogue opens up more uncomfortable questions than it answers. But I like this: I like not knowing exactly what happened and why, and I like the fact that these are interesting characters who can't easily be labelled `good' and `bad' or `right' and `wrong'.

Having said that, there were some unexplained turns of events which just didn't ring true. Gareth's character transformation mid-way through wasn't entirely convincing. Nor was the fact that Rose - who dived into the role of surrogate mother to Nico and Yannis - apparently abandons any kind of duty of care towards them at the end of the novel. And - for all the satisfying ambiguity - the final denouement and subsequent epilogue are a little too neat in some respects.

There are even some elements of Rose herself which stretch the bounds of believability. The transformation from drug-taking wild-child into wholesome domestic goddess wouldn't itself be a problem; it's that she is so very smug about her domestic goddess-ness. There's a lot of brand name dropping (Rose doesn't cook in a casserole dish, she cooks in her Le Creuset, for example) and she's almost allergic to the thought of supermarket shopping, rowdy children or clutter in the kitchen. Although we learn that she's not quite the angel she professes to be, all of this makes it pretty hard to imagine her living the rock-and-roll lifestyle with Polly a few years earlier.

The other thing I really didn't like was the baby's name: Flossie. Really? We're supposed to buy that a respectable, prim-and-proper mother, whose first child was named Anna, would give her new baby a name more suited to a rabbit?

These are relatively small complaints, though. I raced through Cuckoo in a couple of days, trying (unsuccessfully) to anticipate what was coming and work out the truth. The final few chapters in particular throw up some completely unexpected surprises, the character quirks keep it interesting and unpredictable, and the writing is so descriptive that it's easy to conjure up vivid mental images of the farmhouse and village. I'll definitely be buying Julia Crouch's next offering, Every Vow You Break.
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on 8 January 2012
This is not the sort of plot that usually attracts me. However it had such good reviews that I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did.

Rose, Gareth and their young family open their arms to Rose's oldest friend Polly and her two boys when Polly's husband is killed in a car crash. Rose's wild days of old are long over, she has moved on and matured into a maternal middle class rural matriarch.

However, Polly has taken a different direction. She married Christos and moved to be with his family on a Greek island. And she has retained her solipsism along with a bitch on heat magnetism that is irresistible to men. This is portrayed in a deliciously earthy and gritty manner.

As the book opens, the author, Julie Crouch, cleverly paints a contented family atmosphere whilst giving the merest hint of insidious cracks in Rose and Gareth's relationship. Cracks that will attract Polly's dark inimical mischief like bacteria to an open wound.

Seemingly devastated, Polly returns from Greece to rapturous welcome from Rose, but only reluctant acceptance by Gareth. Rose's young daughter Anna is intrigued by Polly's exotically undisciplined young boys Yannis and Nico.

But inevitably the clash of cultures begins to create tension, and Polly's behaviour starts to pollute the innocence of the status quo.

Things come to a head when Polly's apparent carelessness causes Rose's new baby Flossie to be rushed to hospital. Rose keeps vigil over Flossie, leaving both her home and husband to the mercy of the ruthless Polly. When she returns the balance of power has shifted and Rose must fight to maintain her brood, her home and most of all, her sanity.

This is a great and skilfully crafted read. At one stage towards the end, the plot did stretch credibility. And, I was slightly disappointed at the finale, which was rather abrupt, but this is no reflection on the book, just a personal preference.

It is hard to believe this is a first novel and will look forward to more from Julie. I just hope that the publishers do not pressure her to rush out a novel, as this one must have taken some careful thought and planning. It showed.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 November 2011
Bereaved Polly and her sons come to stay with her best-friend Rose - but soon little things start to grate with Rose, and then life becomes far more menacing than she ever expected...

The first two thirds of this book is done really well: Crouch portrays in intimate detail the changing dynamics between the two families and, especially, the relationship between Polly and Rose. The build-up of tension is controlled well, and we're never quite sure whether Rose is the victim of her own post-natal, hormonal imagination or whether Polly is more disturbed than Rose wants to think.

However the last third seems to lose that restraint, and everything starts to become increasingly unlikely. There are various clichés of the genre thrown in (the cat, the fox), too many rather gratuitous and unbelievable sexual episodes (Simon?!), and an overplaying of dark secrets from the past which tended to tip the book over into the silly, rather than the threatening, for me. The rather over-wrought climax in the kitchen made me giggle, for example, and the ending feels like the author couldn't really be bothered to go through the motions.

Far too much of the story happens off-stage so that we never get to understand the changing nature of Polly and Gareth's relationship which becomes so crucial to the story.

So this isn't terrible but it does feel a bit lazy towards the end and unfinished. I started off really enjoying this book but was disappointed and unsatisfied by the end.
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on 5 September 2012
Crouch's début novel has a promising beginning. We have nearly all experienced a toxic friend at some point in our lives so the hook is strong. The opening chapters are gripping and one can use the term 'page turner.' At first I was gripped. but about half-way through the book I began to wonder if Rosie was not more than a little thick. She receives two warnings about Polly from her friends and if everyone else could see what was coming, why couldn't she? As the book progresses more than a little credulity is lost and then the ending is a big disappointment. Errant husband conveniently dies immediately by falling on Aga, husband's brother is waiting in the wings to provide Rose with a new life in France but the 'action' scene preceding the last chapter is laughable and badly executed. And then there are the loose ends. What has happened to the poor little kitten. One minute it is there and then conveniently, it isn't and what about Rose's affection for Polly's sons. Whilst they are living with her she is concerned for their welfare and takes on the role of surrogate mother but in the last chapter she has relinquished them to the care of their unsuitable mother and legged it to France. When the unspeakable Polly contacts her again one assumes the whole cycle will start again with dim Rose's new man. All in all this is a very good first effort on Crouch's part but I feel she should have had more guidance with the ending from her agent/publisher.
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on 17 February 2012
I bought this book to feed my addiction to them, and because I was intrigued by the title, tag line and the few pages I read in the shop.
I was absolutely glued; looked forward to finishing work or any other task so I could curl up and be furious at the twisted beauty that is Polly, equally sympathetic and dying to slap Rosie around the head.
You know that feeling when the pages ahead are less then the ones you've read...what is again?...oh that's right...dread. I really didn't want it to end. And by God, you should have just stopped, because the ending was pretty crap. I'm sorry Ms. Crouch, I hate to "poop" all over your work but that ending was more disappointing then finding out that Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny weren't real. I mean WTF?? You just left us all hanging there. I actually threw the book across the room and was fuming all day!
I have never done an Amazon review I just had to let you know that, Cuckoo could have been great! I totally understood Rosie, haven't we all at some point in our lives had a "friend" that we know is so very bad for us, but they are a reminder of good times so, we hang on until we eventually learn. But that last couple chapters made me want to slap someone.
I hope your next books ending will be better.
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on 8 November 2012
This book was recommended to me as I am a fan of Authors like Sophie Hannah and Claire Seeber. It is a good suspense thriller but I must admit it took me a while to get into. But by a third of the way through the book I was hooked on the plot and I think the creepiness of Polly's character built quite well. There are some really shocking moments in the book where I thought to myself 'Oh this will be a bit of a scare but it'll all turn out to be fine.' But it didn't, which is good because it surprised me.

However towards the end, Rose, the main character was getting on my nerves a bit. I hadn't like Gareth (Rose's husband) from the start and by the end I found it hard to see why Rose had married him in the first place, but his unlikable demeanour actually works quite well with the climax of the book. Also, there are some incidents that are alluded to earlier in the book but you never find out exactly what happened (I guess it is left to the readers interpretation/imagination); this was a little frustrating for me as I like to know everything.

The ending itself was dramatic but a little disappointing. It was all wrapped up a bit too quickly. Yet the majority of the book is a good, page turning read and overall I enjoyed it.
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