Aussie Book Review: Poet’s Cottage by Josephine Pennicott

Poet's Cottage Josephine Pennicott- Poet’s Cottage

 Format- Paperback

 Source- Review copy

 Publisher- Pan Macmillan

 Publication date- 22 March, 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.
‘Poet’s Cottage’ is a beautiful and haunting mystery of families, bohemia, truth, creativity, lies, memory and murder.

 Review- Poet’s Cottage is an absorbing novel entwined with mystery, inter-generational secrets and intrigue, set in a ghostly town in Tasmania.

When her mother dies, Sadie inherits the Tatlow family home, Poet’s Cottage in the coastal fishing town of Pencubbit, Tasmania. Pearl Tatlow was the eccentric grandmother whose legacy of outlandish behaviour and uninhibited ways is still the talk of the town, even two generations after Pearl was brutally murdered in the cellar and her murder never found. Pearl was a children’s writer and bore two daughters, Marguerite (Sadie’s mother) and Thomasina.

Sadie, also a writer returns to her mother’s childhood home to uncover the truth of her grandmother’s death and to write her story. But she uncovers that Pearl, who was always portrayed as a lively, wonderful mother had many enemies in Pencubbit, including her daughter Thomasina who claimed her mother was abusive and mentally unstable.

Sadie is separated from her husband who left her for a young new age woman and moves into Poet’s Cottage with her teenage daughter, Betty who is recovering from an eating disorder.

There are many quirky characters in the story including close to one hundred year old Birdie Pinkerton who had a long-term relationship with Maxwell (Pearl’s husband) following the murder. Sadie makes friends with outspoken Maria and Canadian Gracie who owns most of the heritage estates in the town.

The author alternates the POV of Sadie and Betty in the present day deciphering the puzzle of their grandmother’s past as well as excerpts from Birdie’s memoir which tells her perspective of events in the 1930’s that lead to the eventual death of Pearl Tatlow.

Poet’s Cottage was inspired by the life of children’s author, Enid Blyton, whose daughters to this day have conflicting opinions on her role as a good mother. During a family holiday to a coastal town in Tasmania, the author was mesmerised by a big white Georgian style cottage by the sea that became known as Poet’s Cottage.

Poet’s Cottage is a ghostly mystery which spans three generations and covers themes of mental illness, infidelity, childhood abuse and the dramas of a small town in the 1930’s.

In the author’s note, Josephine says she set out to create an English-style mystery but with an Australian setting and I think she captured this perfectly. When I read this, I felt as captivated as I did when I read Sara Foster’s ghostly mystery Beneath the Shadows- which I also loved.

Highly recommended!

5/5 rating

Purchase book @

Fishpond/ Amazon/ Book Depository UK

About the author: Josephine is an award-winning writer in the crime genre. Her story Birthing The Demons won the 2001 Scarlet Stiletto, and she has won the Kerry Greenwood Domestic Malice Prize twice, with Hail Mary (2003) and Tadpole (2004).

Josephine’s previous novels were in the dark fantasy genre:  Circle Of Nine (2001), Bride Of The Stone (2003) and A Fire In The Shell (2004).

Circle Of Nine was named as one of 2001′s best debut novels in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror (Terri Windling & Ellen Datlow, editors). A Fire In The Shell was shortlisted for Best Horror Novel in the 2005 Aurealis Awards.

Although born in Tasmania, Josephine’s early years were spent in Papua New Guinea. She has worked in a range of jobs (including nurse, housemaid, life-drawing model and sales assistant) and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of New South Wales.

Josephine lives in Sydney, Australia, with her writer partner David Levell and their daughter Daisy.

For more information visit her website.

This book was read as part of the these two 2012 challenges:

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