The Cormorant – Stephen Gregory

The Cormorant – Stephen Gregory
Valancourt Books – 2013 (Originally published 1987)

This horror novel was reiussed by Valancourt books in 2013, so I knew it was going to be pretty good. It’s about a man who inherits a cormorant, a big dirty bird, from his uncle. I’ve done quite a few evil animal books this year, but I anticipated this one being quite a bit better. It won a Somerset Maugham Award, and I had seen it being compared to Poe’s writing. In ways it was classier than my standard fare, but it also contained more crass swearing and disturbing pervy bits than any of the horror novels about beetles or worms that I’ve read in 2020.

This is suspenseful, creepy, sometimes funny and breathtakingly dark. I’m not going to try any harder to convince you to read it. For the rest of this post, I am going to talk about the plot and give away big spoilers. If you haven’t read it already, fuck off and come back when you’re done.

The narrator repeatedly alludes to his previous career as a teacher, and although he claims to feel that he was never cut out for that job, his actions suggest otherwise. His final acts of vengeance against the cormorant prove that he is extremely efficient at teaching lessons.

The whole way through the book I was expecting him to turn violent against the bird. When he finally snaps, he does so with grace, determinacy and cunning. He hits the unruly bird on the wing with a fire poker, shoves it in a box and then gives it a golden shower. Take that, you filthy beast!

I have nothing else to say other than that the bathtub scene was weird and probably unnecessary and that the ending is unbearably grim. I really enjoyed The Cormorant, and I’ll definitely check out more of Gregory’s stuff when I get the chance.

6 thoughts on “The Cormorant – Stephen Gregory

  1. I haven’t read the novel but your post has sparked a memory… I’m sure I saw a BBC adaptation of this, probably getting on for 30 years ago. I’ll have to get hold of the book and give it a go.

    Good to see your blog’s thriving, by the way!

    All the best,


      1. It has been a while, hasn’t it? Life sort of got in the way, my wife nearly died (she’s fine now!), and I got out of the swing of writing. I keep thinking I might creak open the gates on the old place sometime soon!


  2. So it’s not a romance novel then? It sounds weird and disturbing and unpleasant in the way of that horrible brilliant Iain Banks novel, The Wasp Factory. Probably disturbing-er as it happens.

    Gosh, I really have lost my stomach for certain kinds of twisted horror. Give me old fashioned werewolfs and zombies and vampires, any day.


    1. Yeah, that one has been on my list for a while. Will give it a go.

      I think I’m getting pickier with horror. I’ve read a lot of novels this year, and I am running out of patience for the “paperbacks from hell” kinda stuff, the bad ones anyways.

      I’m turning into a man of class and distinction. I only read the classics now.


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