Rook by Jane Rusbridge

Rook Jane Rusbridge

It tells the tale of Nora, who has temporarily returned to her mother Ada‘s vast home by the coast, hoping to make a living by teaching the cello while she settles back into village life.

Yet both mother and daughter have changed irreparably since they last lived together, and as it delicately develops their relationship, Rusbridge’s story delicately points out the fragility of the human mind.

Personal tragedy throbs through this novel like a heartbeat, steadily pulsing through the plot, making for a rich read.

We are brought face to face with loneliness, jealousy and dementia as well as the inability to process, or indeed notice, the problems of others.

Past and present are intertwined seamlessly through Rusbridge’s artful changes of tense: she wields her keyboard like a paintbrush as she shows us the characters and their histories, especially Nora, who seems reluctant to share her story – even with herself.

But Rusbridge manages to tease it out of her in snippets of memory and conversation, in the way she looks at others, in the way she moves.

The distant past, too, is brought to bear, as a reporter shows up to delve into the secret of where King Harold II is buried.

This  subplot lacked resolution, though, petering out in an inconclusive manner. However, it didn’t bother me that much because I was far more wrapped up in the present than the past – a technique that may well be deliberate on Rusbridge’s part, as some of her characters are so wrapped up in the present that, similarly, the past doesn’t even cross their minds. Likewise, others, particularly Nora and her mother, are so wrapped up in the past that the present passes them by.

This is a book resonant with daydreamy prose, with a pace like a steady pulse. Rusbridge’s skills of depiction are such that, at times, reading Rook can feel like inhabiting somebody else’s body – particularly interesting considering the recurring themes to do with pregnancy.

Particularly strong in its intertwining of the landscape and the inner lives of its characters, this is an evocative novel that will linger in the mind. Out now, Rook is available in paperback priced at £7.53 and for Kindle priced at £7.15.

Rating: 3.5/5

Recommended for: Anyone interested in mother-daughter relationships, or those who’ve experienced life in a small coastal village, as Rusbridge’s depiction is – often humorously – spot-on.

Other recommended reading: Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt.

Katie Wood