It’s a pleasure today to share my review of The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliot Wright, published by Simon & Schuster on 21st February and available now for kindle, in hardback and as an audiobook, with the paperback to follow in September. My thanks to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, provided through netgalley. I’ve been convinced for some considerable time that this author was someone whose books I really wanted to read – her other three were duly added to my kindle, only to sadly vanish into its depths. But I’ve finally managed to experience her writing, and I’m so very glad I have – this book is stunning.
What has happened to Cornelia Blackwood?
She has a loving marriage. But she has no friends.
Everyone knows her name. But no one will speak to her now.
Cornelia Blackwood has unravelled once before. Can she stop it from happening again?
From a supremely talented storyteller, The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood is a powerful novel of motherhood, loss and loneliness and how we can make damaging choices when pushed to our emotional edge. A paperback bestseller with her debut novel, The Things We Never Said, and nominated for an RNA Award in 2014, Susan Elliot Wright has written a truly important novel that explores the dark depths of psychosis with honesty and sensitivity.
I’ll warn you now that I might not use the word “enjoyed” at any point in this review – and I know that might be a tad unusual for me, but reading this book was such an intense emotional experience that it seems somehow inappropriate. But that’s certainly in no way a negative, because this book gripped me from the beginning until its dramatic and almost inevitable conclusion. Its themes are immensely affecting: we know that Leah isn’t a mother, and that she carries physical and emotional scars, but not the reasons why. The book tells us, slowly revealing the events that have gone before, while unfolding a present day story that escalates dramatically as we learn more about Leah’s loneliness and emptiness, and the heartbreaking series of events that lies behind it.
This is unquestionably an “important” novel because of the issues it deals with, but it’s also an excellent piece of story telling – the book has a forceful narrative drive, and the author develops the story in a way that I found totally compelling, alternating between “now” and “then”, making you ache within at every new revelation from Leah’s past and every wrong decision in the present. There are moments of joy – but with a depth of feeling behind them that keeps you somehow balancing on a knife-edge, knowing that things probably won’t be well and that those moments are something of an illusion.
I desperately don’t want to tell the story, other readers need to experience this book the way I did: the author’s prologue will guide you as to whether the book’s themes make it one you’ll want to read. It left a profound emotional impression, and I was immensely moved by a story laced with obsession and loss, but told with sympathy and deep compassion.
About the author
Susan Elliot Wright is also the author of The Things We Never Said, The Secrets We Left Behind and What She Lost. She has an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam University, where she is now an associate lecturer, and she lives in Sheffield with her husband.