Title: The End of Cuthbert Close
Author: Cassie Hamer
Published: March 23rd 2020
Publisher: HQ Fiction – AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Women
Rating: 4 stars
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbours. (Trad. proverb, origin: Australian suburbia)
Food stylist Cara, corporate lawyer Alex and stay-at-home mum Beth couldn’t be more different. If it wasn’t for the fact they live next door to each other in Cuthbert Close, they’d never have met and bonded over Bundt cake. The Close is an oasis of calm and kindness. The kind of street where kids play cricket together and neighbours pitch in each year for an end of summer party.
But no one’s told Charlie Devine, glamorous wife of online lifestyle guru, The Primal Guy. When she roars straight into the party with her huge removal truck and her teenage daughter with no care or regard for decades-old tradition, the guacamole really hits the fan.
Cara thinks the family just needs time to get used to the village-like atmosphere. Beth wants to give them home cooked meals to help them settle in. Alex, says it’s an act of war. But which one of them is right? Dead guinea pigs, cruelly discarded quiches, missing jewellery, commercial sabotage and errant husbands are just the beginning of a train of disturbing and rapidly escalating events that lead to a shocking climax.
When the truth comes out, will it be the end of Cuthbert Close?
‘No one leaves Cuthbert Close unless they’re dying –‘
‘Or divorcing,’ Beth cut in.
‘Or drowning in debt,’ said Alex. ‘Which is basically what we are.’ She looked around. ‘I love this place, and I love you guys, and I love our home.’
The End of Cuthbert Close is a wry, revealing and connective tale. I enjoyed my first taste of Australian author Cassie Hamer’s work. I will be asking for a second, third and fourth helping of this talented storyteller’s writing.
In the bustling little community of Cuthbert Close, three women have managed to forge a relationship despite their clear differences. A place of security, non judgement and peace, the trio of Cuthbert Close have enjoyed nurturing a deep bond with one another over barbecues, cakes and parties. When a heady new neighbour enters their peaceful existence, the three friends rally together as this newcomer disrupts the equilibrium of Cuthbert Close. Each of the three friends approaches the new neighbour differently. While Cara wants to allow the new neighbour time to settle in, Beth bombards the new resident with home cooked delicacies. While Alex struggles to see eye to eye with glamorous Charlie. When things start to go missing and unexplained mishaps occur, the long term residents of Cuthbert Close can’t help but point the blame at the newest addition to their street. When the truth is revealed, it will change the relations of Cuthbert Close forever.
A favourite blogger of mine (Debbish) recently reviewed The End of Cuthbert Close and I was so taken by her post that I decided to carefully maneuver this one to the top of my rather full review book pile. I’m so glad I did, as I truly regret not having read Hamer’s debut, After the Party. I really connected to and appreciated the sardonic tone of The End of Cuthbert Close, with the well timed moments of humour, which is matched by plenty of realism.
There is a touch of Liane Moriarty in this novel and I hate to draw comparisons, but this novel has the same domestic focus, with mysterious undertones, which has been perfected by the bestselling author. I enjoyed this life lit focus, which is shaded with moments of grey and shady episodes. The End of Cuthbert Close is brimming with tension and melodrama. I could easily see this one playing out the small screen in the form of an addictive series. The atmosphere is cutting, but also comical.
The setting is fantastic. While on the one hand it is very obviously Australian, I am sure readers from any location around the world will be able to relate to life in the suburbs. Hamer’s descriptions of her locale ring true and I definitely felt grounded in this location for the length of the book.
‘The normal sounds of Cuthbert Close filtered through the open door of the shed: the wind whispering through the trees. A whip of birds taking flight. The woody music of a bamboo wind chime. A leaf blower squealing in the distance. The muted beep of a truck reversing, several streets away.’
Hamer does a fine job of outlining her characters. From Cara, Beth and Alex, though to their families, partners, employers and more, this book is filled with an eclectic character set. Although each of the three pivotal protagonists had features or behaviours I could identify with, my true affinity went to Alex. I really warmed to Alex and I looked forward to the Alex sequences in the book. Alex’s situation, which is based around her difficulties maintaining a work/life balance sucked me in.
Hamer uses The End of Cuthbert Close as a template to explore a variety of issues at the heart of modern day lifestyles. From parenting, infertility, motherhood, careers, friendship, loneliness, infidelity, finances, teen issues and life choices, these problems are examined within the umbrella theme of neighbourhood relations. Hamer’s approach is authentic, eye opening and intuitive, which ensures that the pages of The End of Cuthbert Close turn themselves.
I also need to mention the additional excerpts included in The End of Cuthbert Close. Inserted within the narrative are a series of intriguing posts made by a narrator by the name of The Primal Guy, which adds an extra layer of interest and a touch of mystery to the novel. This was an excellent device employed by the author to draw her readers further into The End of Cuthbert Close.
A gratifying novel that offers up plenty of amusement as well as understanding, The End of Cuthbert Close has wide ranging appeal. I highly recommend this title.
The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer was published on 23rd March 2020 by HQ Fiction – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The End of Cuthbert Close, Cassie Hamer, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The End of Cuthbert Close is book #39 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge