If there’s a time to read chilling literature (or catch up with Hammer/giallo classics on Netflix), it’s now. October is the month when the unnatural are really out and about, jumping up and down and waving their hands at us, shouting, ‘We’re here!’. So, it’s with pleasure we delved into CJ Cooke’s The Nesting, a book that pays more than a nod to the Gothic tradition. And we have made clear, many, many times now, we are partial to that tradition.

There are many things to like about The Nesting. It’s a good yarn, full of would haves, could haves, maybes from the start, and that also makes it very filmic. The interesting thing is, like a lot of modern Gothic-esque books, the main characters aren’t that likeable, or even at times, understandable, their actions defying all logic. But then isn’t that what underlies any good horror-esque book or film? The ‘don’t do it!’/’what on earth are you thinking?’ moments that keep us enthralled as the events unfold.

The protagonist, Lexi, is not in a good place, as the book opens. Overhearing someone, on a train, talking about a possible job in Norway, she decides to take this person’s place. (Of course. Why not?) And so, she finds herself in a wonderful land, full of light and shadow and lovely Gothic suspense, with a name and identity that aren’t her own. Her new world is full of mystery, not just fed by the haunting beauty and physical isolation of the landscape, but also because of the family she’s now looking after, complete with suitably strange, other worldly children and the project that architect father Tom is involved in finishing, the house dedicated to his dead wife, Aurelia.

With nods to Rebecca and Nordic folklore, Cooke’s book is a good tale, one that’s entertaining, but more than that one in which the landscape truly shines. It’s a veritable homage to Norway and made us want to get on a train right now and head there. (If only…) Also all credit to the publisher as it’s a beautifully produced edition.



The Nesting| CJ Cooke| HarperCollins | 2020 | hardback | £12.99 |

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Weird film fact: For you lovers of Gothic B-movie chillers, there’s a 1981 film called The Nesting, in which an agoraphobic writer in the Gothic tradition finds herself staying in a house inhabited by the ghosts of prostitutes long past …

Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the book tour organised by Random Things Tours. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation and to the publisher for supplying a review copy of this beautifully produced book. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other reviews on this tour.

See also: Kamala Markandaya’s beautiful words’; ‘Alice Walker and the power of poetry’;‘Helen Fitzgerald’s Ash Mountain’‘Jane Harper’s debut The Dry, murder and mayhem in small-town Australia’;CWA’s Vintage Crime’; ‘Amanda Craig’s homage to Highsmith‘; ‘Chris Whitaker’s small-town America’; ‘Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; Carver’s Nothing Important Happened Today’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Also of interest: Night Mail (1936), changing the face of British film; A Colour Box by Len Lye (1935); Hitchcock (2012); The Splendour of George Stevens’ Giant (1956). Hitchcock (2012).

This review is copyright © 2020 by The Literary Shed. All rights are reserved. All opinions expressed are our own. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please contact us for permission and provide the necessary credit. Thank you so much. We welcome your feedback.




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