Cackle is a dark tale of feminism, witches, ex-boyfriends and plenty of spiders.
by Rachel Harrison
All her life, Annie has played it nice and safe. After being unceremoniously dumped by her long-time boyfriend, Annie seeks a fresh start. She accepts a teaching job that moves her from Manhattan to a small village upstate. Her new home is picturesque and perfect. The people are all friendly and warm. Her new apartment is lovely too, minus the oddly persistent spider infestation.
Then Annie meets Sophie.
Beautiful, charming, magnetic Sophie, who takes a special interest in Annie, who wants to be her friend. More importantly, she wants Annie to stop apologizing and start living for herself. That’s how Sophie lives. Annie can’t help but gravitate toward the self-possessed Sophie, wanting to spend more and more time with her, despite the fact that the rest of the town seems… a little afraid of her. And, okay. Sophie’s appearance is uncanny and ageless, her mansion in the middle of the woods feels a little unearthly, and she does seem to wield a certain power… but she couldn’t be… could she?
I recently went on holiday to America and, as you would imagine, spent a lot of time in bookshops. Whilst I was in Mystic, Connecticut I visited Bank Square Books and I (naturally) went straight to their spooky Halloween-ready table. Cackle was there with the staff recommendation “Imagine becoming best friends with a Disney villain.” Sold, to the woman in the back!
(That’s me. I’m the woman.)
Cackle is about a woman called Annie who up sticks after a nasty break-up, leaving her jobs and New York life for a small cute town upstate.
So far, so Gilmore Girls, right?
Except it’s not cutesy at all. There is a local high street with a market and a cute guy working in the coffee shop, but that’s where the similarities end. I was expecting a fairly predictable story, in a good, it’s pumpkin spice latte season sort of way, but Cackle turned out to be way more eerie and disturbing.
Annie makes friends with the mysteriously ageless and beautiful Sophie who lives in a massive house in the middle of the forest. Plus, the whole town is seemingly petrified of her. Major tell-tale signs, if you ask me. But Annie is drawn in by Sophie and her attitude of unapologetically putting herself first. As Annie gets closer to Sophie, she starts to suspect that the townspeople are right and that Sophie isn’t quite what she seems. But then Annie gets a taste of some power herself…
I liked the witchy vibes and the story is quite deliciously unhinged, just when you think you know what’s happening, a little burst of creepiness catches you unawares. The writing also turns quite lyrical at points, which adds to the subversive and magical atmosphere.
This is a great cosy, Autumn/Winter read and it’s not a horror or too scary at all. I would say, I am a huge wimp. There’s a spider called Ralph in it if that makes you feel better. If you like a witchy read, then I recommend this to you!