- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Avon (25 April 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0008320454
- ISBN-13: 978-0008320454
- Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 2.8 x 23.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 281 g
- Customer Reviews: 407 customer ratings
The Stranger in Our Home Paperback – 25 April 2019
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About the Author
Sophie Draper won the Bath Novel Award 2017 with this novel. She has also won the Friday Night Live competition at the York Festival of Writing 2017. She lives in Derbyshire, where the book is set, and under the name Sophie Snell she works as a traditional oral storyteller.
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Well, I can tell you I loved this dark and twisty tale with a large gothic overtone. For me it was very atmospheric and even though the premise is not really new, I was totally absorbed in the story.
I felt a continual darkness throughout the book and linking it with adult fairy tales was very clever.
This one was a winner for me.
Thank you to the Publisher and Netgalley for an arc to read.
Top international reviews
I felt the same with the fairy stories peppered throughout (part of a book Caro was supposed to be illustrating). Although they had some purpose within the narrative, the stories themselves were dull and didn't add much.
As for the plot twists, I found a few of them rather predictable and the novel, as a whole, was quite trite. For me, it lacked the pace and genuine intrigue required to make it a page-turner and I found myself skim reading parts of it just to find out what happened. As for the relevance of the pear drum, it turned out to be a bit underwhelming. I was hoping for something far darker and more eerie. All in all, glad I only paid 99p for this novel.
I don't want to give anything away but I love the fact the twists came all through the book, and even at the end you're left thinking. A superb thriller, absolutely wish I could give it a 6th star!
I loved the unraveling of the lives of Caro and Seth’s lives in this book. From the opening pages I wanted to know what had gone wrong in their history, and why everyone was so frosty towards Caro; there were some scenes which really made me think, what had she done to deserve this treatment? This, for me, is what made this book a page turner. There is a dark sense of malevolence that runs throughout the novel, and it really made me think that there was something evil hidden, and I was desperate to find out what it was. I particularly liked the fairy tale aspect of the book which added an even darker tone to the book.
As Caro revisits her past, we do get see ghosts of her childhood and gradually, Lucy Draper begins to reveal the truth about what happened, and there are some hard hitting revelations which pull the different strands in the novel together very well. There are plenty of captivating characters that kept me intrigued and I was utterly absorbed by Sophie’s writing.
I really enjoyed reading this book; I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out to see what Sophie Draper writes next. Cuckoo is absorbing and compelling, perfect for fans of psychological thrillers.
At times I found Caro a little pathetic - but as we learn more about her it's easier to appreciate the adult she's become and the long term impact of a difficult and emotionally abusive childhood.
This is a really atmospheric book and plays on the things many of us find scary. I really enjoyed this book and didn't see the end coming at all. The final ending was really thought provoking and a satisfying end to a sad and spooky tale.
As for the fairy tales used in the book, they were very well crafted. It's fiendishly difficult to imitate the style of a classic fairy tale. Five shiny stars!
The funeral of first-person narrator Caro’s stepmother, Elizabeth Crowther, in the hills of Derbyshire brings Caro and her glamorous sister, Steph, together for the first time in almost twenty years. Their awkward reunion and evident distance in the intervening years has much to do with the bitter memories of their childhood after their father’s sudden death. Having left their shared home at the tender age of sixteen, seven-years older Steph, seems eager to make amends and “start again”, with some bonding over their shared misery at the hands of Elizabeth. Yet for Caro, it always seemed that Elizabeth’s hatred of her that was far in excess of her bickering with Steph and she finally feels ready to overcome her troubling past.
With Caro, an illustrator, reeling from an abusive boyfriend and relationship break-up in London and Steph jetting back to her life and career in New York (and forfeiting her share of the inheritance), the clearing out and readying of Larkstone Farm for sale whilst working on her latest commission falls to Caro. But her project, illustrating a series of darkly twisted fairy tales, proves far too close to home with its evil stepmother’s and a particularly disturbing story about a pear drum, the very object with which Elizabeth used to taunt her as an young child. The discovery of the actual wooden pear drum and a hostile bunch of locals seems to then set off a chain of disconcerting happenings in the house. As Caro is consumed by apprehension and verges on hysteria fragments of childhood memories return to her and the eventual discovery of a telling photograph finally seems to spell out a far from obvious connection to the pear drum.
As a protagonist Caro is not easy to empathise with or vie for and singlehandedly takes the feminist movement back decades. Although her fragile mental state on arrival is credibly explained by her abusive relationship with a controlling ex-boyfriend, she is wilfully blind and responsible for much of her downfall in Derbyshire given that she acknowledges niggling suspicions and fails to ask the obvious. From questioning the fall over the banisters (classified as an accident) that left Elizabeth dead, to failing to pin either Steph or cottage tenant, Craig Atherton, down with direct questions, she allows herself to be fobbed off and easily appeased. Although her reliability is obviously questionable, from her many neuroses and timid manner to her growing reliance on alcohol, her lack of exploration and development as a character is disappointing. Sadly at the end of the novel she appears neither to be more clued up or judicious than prior to events and sympathising with her is a nigh on impossible task. Steph and Craig are also rather one-dimensional and never emerge from the page, therefore making it difficult to invest in the novel as a whole.
Amongst the many clear signs of potential, my dismay was that there was too many aspects factoring into the story that have been used to greater effect in other works of psychological suspense (the isolated house, unwelcoming locals, power failures and inclement weather). Some aspects of the storyline are blatantly obvious too, from the coincidental commission recalling the pear drum to Steph’s evasive two minutes duration internet calls! The motif of the pear drum and its obvious importance is likewise severely overplayed and the reader remains uninformed of its sinister significance for over seventy-five percent of the novel.
At 385 print pages the novel is on the hefty side for the limited content, with almost all of the unsettling incidents in the family home (item’s moved and unpleasant discoveries) given no viable explanation and a flabbergasting series of revelations that are difficult to swallow revealed in a mere few pages. In short, a less than satisfying experience despite a brooding backdrop and ominous atmosphere.
The character motivation for the antagonist(s) was all wrong. It was totally unrealistic and poorly executed. The main male lead (trying not to name names here) in particular was just all over the place. And the excessive victimisation shown towards a six-year-old by two people who would have in any realistic circumstances known better was way too OTT to be believable.
Then there was Caro. For the most part I liked her character, but as things panned out too much came out that she really ought to have been aware of or found out about. I know she was "damaged" or whatever, but she couldn't surely have had her head in the sand as much as it appeared.
And then, to top it all, they killed a kitten. That was the total jump-the-shark moment for me. It was like, the writer was thinking, what's the most shocking thing I could add here to make these people seem more evil? And I'm not just saying that because of my user name ....!
I still might get Draper's next book because she really can write, and like I said, most of the book was great. Just the ending needed to be thought out a little better.