Book Review: The Cormorant

THE CORMORANT | Stephen Gregory
06.18.2013 (original written in 1986) | Valancourt Books
Rating 3/5 stars


A young family has inherited a small cottage in north Wales. The home was surprisingly left to them by a bachelor uncle, who lived a quiet life. This cottage affords the couple a new start outside of the bustling city where they were previously residing. However, as with most gifts of good fortune, there is a catch to this family keeping their new home. They must agree to care for the uncle’s pet cormorant or lose the house. What could be so bad about taking care of a bird? The cormorant seems harmless at first, just a little sensitive to change, but surely nothing the family cannot move past. When things start to border on dangerous with the bird, the family realizes that they may have underestimated their undertaking.


THE CORMORANT is a quiet horror story filled with poetic prose and atmospheric writing that give a nod to the style of Poe. Gregory chooses to focus his attentions on the seaside village that this family has moved to and building a sense of isolation surrounding their cottage. This fits to what you would expect the reaction to be from a young couple and their toddler moving out of the city. In addition to this change is their new family addition, the cormorant. Described as a blackish/greenish bird with a hooked beak, the reader can sense the danger of the cormorant immediately. In addition to menacing looks, this bird has an immediate anxious reaction that causes panicky and defensive actions against his new family.

When the couple’s son starts to take on a fascination for the cormorant, Gregory ups the unsettling feelings surrounding this story. When he is found at the window staring, almost dazed or in a trance, into the cormorant’s cage outside, chills went through me. There is something about creepy kids that always get me, and Gregory’s descriptions of this toddler’s actions exceeded at hitting that mark. Outside of my feelings towards the boy, I struggled to connect with his parents. They were largely unlikeable in the actions they chose to take or their reactions to certain situations. My inability to connect to the family hindered my ultimate love for this story.


No review could be complete of this book without talking about that scene…if you’ve read it, you know the one. It’s about the family and it seems to be randomly thrown into the story without any additional benefit to the plot. It was perhaps one of those cringeworthy additions just to get people uncomfortable. Whatever reason Gregory chose to include it, it didn’t work for me and it made me lose interest in the rest of the story. I did push through and thought that the ending was very well written, but a little rushed given the pace of the rest of the story.

Amazon | Book Depository

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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