A Book Review of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (or J. K. Rowling)
As many of you know, J. K. Rowling very recently announced that she is the author behind the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. I suppose there are a plethora of reasons why she choose to both write under a pen name and then to later announce it. I am not going to thoroughly investigate them. Instead, I am going to share the rather happy news that I really enjoyed this novel.
Perhaps the biggest reason I enjoyed this novel was the protagonist, Cormoran Strike.
Our guest blogger, Stephanie B., reviewed The Casual Vacancy, and found it rather lacking – something I agreed with. My biggest problem was that I didn’t really like a single character. It wasn’t because they were flawed – that can be super interesting. They were just flat, and I was unable to connect or care about any of their fates. This was an entirely different story, and I think this is where Rowling’s true talent lies, although devoid in The Casual Vacancy; she creates amazingly compelling and deep characters. In The Cuckoo’s Calling, this character is a man who goes by the name of Cormoran Strike. It is a bizarre name fittingly bestowed upon a bizarre and flawed character who has a prosthetic leg after serving in the Afghanistan war.
Upon first introduction to Strike, I felt very little – maybe mild pity and mild curiosity. But as the story progressed, I weirdly came to love him. I still can’t really pinpoint the exact reasons why. I think, perhaps, because he felt so… honest, so authentic, and so unique. I think there is something else that she captured perfectly – he just really fascinated me. I want to read more about him. I want to know more about his life and his problems. I went from indifferent to adoring in the course of 400 some pages – something that truly showcases a writer’s talent.
I also thoroughly enjoyed many of the minor characters. Robin was wonderful and her interactions with/juxtaposition to Strike were very well done. Ciara Porter and Guy Some were other characters I enjoyed, although not as fully-developed in comparison to Strike and Robin.
Another good quality: the mystery. Rowling knows how to write a mystery. All of the Harry Potter books showcase this well enough. This novel, of course, brings it to the real gritty world, and it is very well-done. The characters, the plot, the action – all is mostly believable. Was it the best mystery I have ever read? No. Was I surprised? Yes. And in mystery writing, surprise is the important thing.
The end feels a little too wrapped up for my liking, although that might be because I really want to see more of Strike in another book.
The Virgil quotes scattered throughout the novel seem to be misplaced and a tad forced. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate Virgil for what he has written. But it has no place, as far as I am concerned, being alluded to or quoted in a novel like this one. It adds nothing to the current mystery or character development, and is instead seemingly placed there to make the book look more like “literature” – because let’s be real here… no one is just siting at home reading Virgil. The only way you are familiar enough with Virgil to make a connection to the story is if you are a.) an extreme lit nerd, b.) a lit professor c.) an English major or d.) all of the above. And if you do happen to identify with none of the labels previously mentioned and you are still very familiar with Virgil… then I think you are quite a unique gem.
I am sure Rowling has a reason for including these – I just don’t think that whatever it is is a good one.
Even with neat ending and the Virgil quotes, it was a fun, good read. The writing is well-done, and the story is compelling. The mystery takes hold of you from the beginning, but you keep reading because you really start to admire and respect the main character. So I say read it – to all. The mystery and plot probably won’t be universally appealing, but I cannot imagine anyone disliking Cormoran Strike. Because he was awesome. Here’s to hoping I get to read more about him.
Written by Rachel B.
Rachel is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She recently graduated with a degree in English. Presently, she writes, reads, and then reads and writes some more, with a giant and ever-present mug of green tea in her hand. Follow Rachel @rrbindl and DNFB @not4birds