Greta’s partner Joel grew up with five brothers and a sister in a feisty household on an isolated NT property. But he doesn’t talk about those days – not the deaths of his sister and mother, nor the origin of the scars that snake around his body.
Now, many years later, he returns with Greta and their three young boys to prepare the place for sale. The boys are quick to settle in, and Joel seems preoccupied with work, but Greta has a growing sense of unease, struggling in the build-up’s oppressive heat and living in the shadow of the old, burned-out family home. She knows she’s a stranger in this uncanny place, with its eerie and alluring landscape, hostile neighbour, and a toxic dam whose clear waters belie its poison. And then there’s the mysterious girl living rough whom Greta tries to befriend.
Determined to make sense of it all, Greta is drawn into Joel’s unspoken past and confronted by her own. Before long the curlew’s haunting cry will call her to face the secrets she and Joel can no longer outrun.
My review of The Curlew’s Eye
This is a really tricky one to review, because my enjoyment of it was really more about how it made me feel than what happens in the book. I thought it was such a wonderfully creepy and atmospheric read – it really drew me in from the start and nailed that haunting “uneasy but I’m not quite sure why” gothic vibe, which I love.
There was kind of an easiness to the way the story unfolds – it felt kind of lazy and humid, if that makes sense, and I feel like that added to the atmosphere. I thought the writing was really interesting, in that what we find out about the past is more of the story than the book’s present or future. It has kind of a domestic noir thriller feel, but without the urgency of a thriller, and this really worked for me – I felt completely immersed in the story, and quite mesmerized the whole way through.
I really enjoyed Greta as the main character. She felt authentic and relatable, but also there was always that question of whether what she was a reliable narrator or not. It was fun to see her settle into the community and make friends (who were also great characters). I also really like how The Curlew’s Eye looked at family dynamics and relationships – from Greta and Joel and their boys, whose relationship I thought had a kind of comfortable and supportive loving feel, to the darker past of Joel’s family, and the way he and his brothers seem to pick up easily after so much time apart.
I absolutely recommend this one if you’re after an immersive and atmospheric, kind of creepy read, especially if you love a book where the prose is as much a star as the plot. It has been one of those reads that has really stuck with me and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Manton’s next novel!
The Curlew’s Eye by Karen Manton
Out now from Allen & Unwin.
Source: I received a free copy for review from Allen & Unwin Australia (thank you!). All views are my own.
Category: Contemporary Australian domestic noir fiction