Book Review – POET’S COTTAGE by Josephine Pennicott

Poet’s Cottage Synopsis

Poet's Cottage by Josephine PennicottPoets 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. (Booktopia)


Poet’s Cottage by Josephine Pennicott is a gothic mystery novel that contains all the ingredients of a success. It has a complex web narrative across historical time periods, in this case the 1930s and the present day. The story is set in a charming little Tasmanian town exposed to the elements and steeped in history, scandal and murder.

Pennicott has cleverly populated the otherwise sleepy town of Pencubitt with some of the more eccentric characters you’ll come across and set herself an ambitious task of telling this tale, predominantly via reflection, from multiple character viewpoints, books and letters. And deliciously, more than one of the narrators is unreliable.

Unfortunately the execution presented some weaknesses for me. The story’s telling felt quite laboured at times, details necessary to unravel the mystery were really signposted and so by the end much of the zing had gone out of the mystery. I thought the interaction between a couple of the characters, particularly between Mother and Daughter, Sadie and Betty, seemed awkward on occasion also.

Jennifer’s Vuletic’s audio narration of Poet’s Cottage is competent, but as with other titles of hers I’ve listened to, her narration is quite overt – I just think she tries too hard at times, in a similar way that people read enthusiastically to children. This meant I found myself listening to her performance rather than being immersed in the story like I wanted to be.

While I was disappointed that my high hopes for this novel were not met, I was still left with a warm and fuzzy feeling after reading Poet’s Cottage.

Pennicott sets a scene beautifully and whisks you away from the humdrum of everyday life. You can almost smell the coastal breeze and feel the Tasmanian fog on your face…. She reminds us the human spirit is a worthy opponent for the worst that life can throw at us, and that we must first acknowledge that we are deserving of happiness before it will come our away.

If you like the sound of a cross between Daphne Du Maurier and Agatha Christie with an Aussie flavour, then Poet’s Cottage may be for you.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 3.5 / 5

* This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge and the Australian Women Writers Challenge

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BOOK DETAILS: Poet’s Cottage by Josephine Pennicott ( Booktopia | Amazon | Kobobooks | Audible )

Genre: Crime-Thriller, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Historical, Audio

Author Information: Josephine Pennicott was born in Tasmania, Australia and spent her early childhood in Papua New Guinea. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in painting, and is the winner of the 2001 Scarlet Stiletto Award for crime writing. Josephine’s paintings and writings reflect her interest in myth, magic, fairytales, death and transformation. She has travelled widely throughout Europe, India and Asia.

Josephine lives in Sydney with her partner, her maltese dog Alfie, and her black cat Smuchi. Her goals for her life at to keep studying and creating, and to be found annually in the departure lounge at Sydney airport.

– Checkout Josephine Pennicott’s website

Other reviews of Poet’s Cottage: Fair Dinkum Crime; Kate Forsyth; Book’d Out; The Australian Bookshelf; AustCrime Fiction

Other titles by Josephine Pennicott: Circle of Nine, Bride of the Stone, A Fire in the Shell