Review: Poet’s Cottage by Josephine Pennicott


Title: Poet’s Cottage

Author: Josephine Pennicott

Published: Pan MacMillan Australia April 2012

Synopsis: Poets had always lived there, the locals claimed. It was as if the house called to its own… When Sadie inherits Poet’s Cottage in the Tasmanian fishing town of Pencubitt, she sets out to discover all she can about her notorious grandmother, Pearl Tatlow. Pearl was a children’s writer who scandalised 1930s Tasmania with her behaviour. She was also violently murdered in the cellar of Poet’s Cottage and her murderer never found.  Sadie grew up with a loving version of Pearl through her mother, but her aunt Thomasina tells a different story, one of a self-obsessed, abusive and licentious woman. And Pearl’s biographer, Birdie Pinkerton, has more than enough reason to discredit her. As Sadie and her daughter Betty work to uncover the truth, strange events begin to occur in the cottage. And as the terrible secret in the cellar threads its way into the present day, it reveals a truth more shocking than the decades-long rumours.

Status: Read from April 14 to 15, 2012 – I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Set in Pencubbit, a fictional fishing town in Tasmania, Poet’s Cottage is a story of scandal, intrigue and family. Pearl Tatlow, an eccentric children’s author, was brutally murdered in Poet’s Cottage in 1936, while her young daughters Thomasina and Marguerite, played in the garden. Her killer was never identified. Seventy or so years later Marguerite’s daughter, Sadie along with her teenage daughter Betty, moves into Poet’s Cottage to write a book about Pearl, the woman revered by her mother but reviled by many. As the story moves between the past and present the truth of Pearl’s life, and death, is revealed.

While there is a mystery at the core of Poet’s Cottage, the story is about much more than Pearl’s grisly end. In life Pearl was a polarising force, despised by her daughter Thomasina who was the target of her mother’s physical and emotional rages, she was put on a pedestal by Marguerite, whose memories of Pearl are far more rosy. Sadie has always taken her mother, to whom she was devoted, at her word, dismissing Thomasina, who still lives in Pencubbit, as a bitter and eccentric woman. It is Birdie Pinkerton, a contemporary of Pearl, who confirms that Pearl was indeed a disturbed woman. In an unpublished manuscript, Birdie reveals a narcissistic woman who openly had affairs, scandalised the small and conservative community with outrageous behaviour and delighted in careless cruelty. Sadie is unsure if she can trust Birdie’s memories, which could be biased by her relationship with Pearls husband, but it paints a damning portrait of a sadistic, albeit, mentally ill woman. Still, Pearl had a strangely magnetic personality, attracting lovers and admirers easily, many of whom were willing to forgive her her faults.
As Sadie learns more about her grandmother, Pearl’s shadow seems to loom over the present. Despite the amount of time that has elapsed it seems Pearl still haunts the town.
Poet’s Cottage has a touch of the gothic about it. The house, though beautifully restored, has an oppressive atmosphere, there are hidden passageways, a creepy, perhaps haunted, basement and a hooded figure lurks in the grounds. Thick fog rolls across the town which is populated by enigmatic characters, many of whom are unpleasant. There is a brusque and brooding romantic interest for Sadie, who is threatened by unseen forces, and though she may not be the fainting type, she succumbs to the unease that envelops the Cottage.

Poet’s Cottage is a beautifully written, atmospheric mystery with surprising depth. A literary novel that offers many surprises, it is sure to capture your imagination and have you reading long into the night.

Available To Purchase

@ PanMacmillan I @BoomerangBooks  I @Booktopia I

@Amazon {Kindle}

About the Author

Josephine Pennicott is an award-winning writer. In 2001 she won the Scarlet Stiletto for a short story, and she has won the Kerry Greenwood Domestic Malice Prize twice in 2003 and 2004. Josephine has written three novels, ‘Circle of Nine’ (2001), which named as one of the year’s best debut novels, ‘Bride of the Stone’ (2003) and ‘A Fire in the Shell’ (2004), which was shortlisted for Best Horror Novel in the 2005 Aurealis Awards. Josephine was born in Tasmania and lives in Sydney with her partner David and their daughter Daisy.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Australian Bookshelf
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 18:03:35

    I really loved this one too. You’re absolutely right about the gothic feel as the author has created such a vivid setting for this story.



  2. Sue Gerth
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 21:35:43

    Sounds like my kind of book! Gothic, creepy house, murder? Yep. Sign me up!



  3. Mari @Bookworm with a View
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 22:21:48

    This sounds lovely! Historical fiction with a good/solide plot. I will look to see if I can find a copy… may for my ereader?



  4. laurelrainsnow
    Apr 24, 2012 @ 00:16:05

    I was captivated by this one when I first saw the cover…but now it looks like a must-read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and piquing my curiosity!



  5. reflectionsofabookaholic
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 17:27:41

    I really haven’t had a good experience with a recent gothic-like novel so I want to try this one. I think this would be a good fit.



  6. Jenny Schwartz (@Jenny_Schwartz)
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 09:18:29

    Sounds wonderful. I love the old gothics from a few decades back…like Barbara Michaels’.



  7. Elizabeth Greaves
    May 02, 2012 @ 12:49:15

    Highly recommended!



  8. Trackback: Book Review - POET'S COTTAGE by Josephine Pennicott
  9. Trackback: AWW Feature: Exclusive Excerpt from Currawong Manor by Josephine Pennicott | book'd out
  10. Trackback: Review: Currawong Manor by Josephine Pennicott | book'd out

I want to know what you think! Your comments are appreciated.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s