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CACKLE by Rachel Harrison (BOOK REVIEW)


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“Look at her. She is stunningly gorgeous. Superhuman. I should

be intimidated. I should feel like a hideous troll walking beside someone so insanely beautiful, but I don’t. I’m just content to soak in her glow. And she’s so nice and open and warm and funny. It’s that rumored phenomenon I never believed in; I feel like I’ve known her my whole life.

So why are these people who know her acting so weird around her?”

 

Cackle by Rachel Harrison is a cosy, peculiar witchy tale, centred on heartbreak, friendship, and small-town drama. When I began reading this I was enveloped in a mellow warmth, captivated by a melancholic narrator, and enchanted by a close-knit, seemingly serene town. Yet as events slowly unfolded an unsettling feeling built, and it became apparent all was not as it seemed. 

 

CackleRachelHarrison.jpeg?resize=194%2C3Meet Annie Crane, an English teacher, an introvert, a woman who has separated from her long-term boyfriend and is devastatingly heartbroken. Sam had been her world, her partner in every sense, but now he’s decided to move on yet our Annie can’t. So, no longer being able to afford to live in Manhattan, she decides to start afresh in the small town of Rowan, near Main Street. Upon her arrival she’s enamoured and falls head-over-heels in love with this charming town; the people are friendly, the surrounding forest is beautiful, her new home is idyllic, and then there’s Sophie. Glamorous, carefree, almost hypnotic Sophie, who immediately befriends Annie and takes her under her wing. The closer Annie becomes to Sophie the more strange and dark occurrences manifest, starting with a spider infestation and escalating to haunting shadows and eerie presences stalking her—something is definitely not quite right. The people of the town seem on edge, their smiles are not quite genuine anymore, and Annie knows Sophie is the cause, that she wields some kind of power. The question is, should she be feared? 

 

Let’s be clear, despite Cackle being categorised as horror this is not a frightening novel, so if you’re expecting scares, blood and gore then you’re reading the wrong book. Yet if you’ve enjoyed films such as Practical Magic (or read the book, which I haven’t yet!) and the series Charmed then you’re in for a real treat because although Cackle follows an entirely different plot, the vibes from both are strong throughout. Rather than outright horror, Harrison creates an eerie atmosphere beginning with a sense of watchfulness, unexplained shadows and sounds, all whilst slowly building up the feeling of claustrophobia. However, these elements work as a backdrop and at the forefront of this novel are the characters Annie and Sophie. Harrison rather fantastically weaves a story of toxic relationships and finding out who you truly are.

 

“It’s astonishing how normal it is to love a creature you’re not supposed to love. It’s astonishing what you’ll accept when you want love. When

you need it. You’ll welcome it in any form, from anyone, anything. regardless of circumstance, however peculiar. However fantastical.”

 

Annie’s narrative voice is filled with excellent dry humour mixed with overwhelming sadness. Her first person narration is reflective and critical and works perfectly to truly get under her skin. Broken up with her boyfriend Sam, Annie is left completely adrift. She is caught between wanting Sam back but knowing you can’t make someone love you, her world is full of regret and what ifs. Sure, her pining made my eyes roll more than a few times after a while, but Annie’s character does feel relatable, we’ve either been her or had a friend just like her. She’s an older protagonist who’s not quite sure where her path in life is leading, not even sure what she wants, she’s forever dependent on others to make her happy. Yes, she’s flawed and messy but aren’t we all in some way or another? When Harrison delves into Annie’s backstory we further realise that every compliment she receives, every ounce of someone noticing her existence means the world because she’s been deprived of both for too long. 

 

Until Sophie enters Annie’s life like a whirlwind that is. Charismatic, glamorous, Sophie, who cooks extravagant hearty meals and lives in a dreamy, if a touch haunted, mansion. At first she’s Annie’s calming presence, she affectionately calls her “pet”, instantly settles her into Rowan’s community and shows her there is more to life than men. I immediately liked Sophie, I loved her confident, carefree demeanour, but she also had me on edge throughout, that kind of intenseness is never a healthy trait to have and can lead to disastrous consequences! A friendship should always be equal, and I began to question how different was Sophie’s influence on Annie to Sam’s when they both had her revolving around them. Nonetheless, Harrison shows us that what people present on the outside is not always what’s happening inside. We soon learn that Sophie is carrying her own burdens, her own sense of loneliness, her own dark secrets.

 

I mentioned earlier that this is not a frightening novel, however I do love the way Harrison explores the theme of fear. She takes possibly one of the most common fears, it’s actually my biggest one, that of spiders, and turns it on its head. Did you ever think a spider could be adorable and the perfect companion? No, neither did I, but here we are! Ralph, the spider who loves to wear hats and attend parties, was simply adorable! His inclusion added another layer of cosy quirkiness to the narrative, which was an actual delight. On the other hand, Harrison shows us the true fear which runs through the town is the fear of powerful independent women. This is shown in the way that a woman such as Sophie, who chose to live alone, who was not tied down to a man, who did not aspire to raise a family was automatically seen as different, strange, abnormal. That’s not to say Sophie didn’t have other reasons to warrant their fear too, but their initial aversion to her stemmed from this. Looking at history, hasn’t that always been the case? Women were too often condemned as witches merely for being different.

 

Cackle is a delightfully entertaining story of two flawed and messy women finding a kinship in one another, a story of magic, of finding inner strength and surviving. Harrison delivers a message to all women out there – embrace your inner witch and show the world exactly what power is!

 

“I never realized how much bullshit is bound to the bottom of your hair. How it carries with it the years and experiences, all it has witnessed, has endured. The reason you can’t let go of your past is that it’s still attached. That weight on your shoulders, the strain on your back and neck. It’s your dead ends.

Cut your hair! I’m going to scream it from the rooftops and while

running down the street, all across America.”

 

ARC provided by Sarah Mather at Titan Books. Thank you for the copy!

 

Cackle is out 23rd September from Titan Books, you can pre-order your copy HERE

Cackle-Feature.jpeg?resize=700%2C509&ssl

The post CACKLE by Rachel Harrison (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive.

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