“Once upon a time there was a river who, like all rivers, knew exactly where she wished to go. Some people willed her to change her course, and when she did not bend to their will, they began to tear her apart, pebble by pebble, stone by stone” – C. J. Cooke
I’m always wary when reading an author I haven’t read before. What if their writing style doesn’t resonate with the way I read? Well, I needn’t have worried when it came to The Nesting by C. J. Cooke. I was instantly captivated.
This compelling novel takes the reader on an emotional journey, following protagonist Lexi as she begins a nannying job, resulting in a move to Norway where things aren’t entirely as they seem.
Lexi’s life has taken a turn for the worse and she is left in dire circumstances. She will do anything to improve her situation, and so takes a job nannying for an architect and his two young daughters after their mother’s death. The job requires a move to Norway, and so Lexi relocates with the family. While her nanny role pushes her capabilities, Lexi finds comfort in the home of her new family, very much warming to Gaia and Coco and stepping in as their mother figure.
But all is not well in Norway. The site where the new home is being built is plagued by misfortunes; secrets come to light and Lexi is seeing things. Situations develop and suspicions arise. What is really happening at Basecamp? What happened here six months ago? These are the questions Cooke has you asking yourself as your mind goes careering down every possible avenue looking for an answer.
Throughout the chapters, the reader is introduced to the limited cast of characters, often reading chapters from their perspective, offering different outlooks on the overarching narrative that flows from cover to cover.
A dual narrative is adopted from the fifth chapter in the form of a time jump, signified at the beginning of each chapter by a “Then” and “Now” heading, while the reader is prepared for this from the first chapter by the presence of the “Now” headings. To many the idea of time jumping in a novel is confusing, but in this instance the technique further enhances the suspense. For example, something shocking may happen at the end of a chapter leaving you on a cliffhanger and you want to read on to find out the consequences, but alas you are met by a time jump for the following chapter; you are kept on the edge of your seat a little longer, the suspense building with every page turned.
As someone who visualises what they read – those ‘brain movies’ are still some of the best movies I’ve seen – the description of the setting is very important. Cooke expertly depicts the beautiful yet haunting Norwegian fjord, surrounded by a vast landscape of dramatic cliffs and foreboding forest.
Further to the setting, Norwegian folklore is expertly woven through the narrative, adding that fantasy element to the novel. The reader is not exposed to the folklore and fairytale elements in such a way that readers unfond of the fantasy genre should not be deterred from reading this book.
I may have picked this book up by chance while shopping in Edinburgh bookshop Golden Hare Books, but I am glad I did. This was a great and enjoyable read. I spent many hours reading before bed thinking, “Just one more chapter.” I always wanted to read just one more chapter. I will certainly be looking out for more C. J. Cooke books whilst out book shopping.