The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu and Sarah Ardizzone

8 October, 2009

The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu

A friend of mine gave me this to read a few days ago. She had picked it up because of the cover, and it certainly looked intriguing. She felt it to be a cross between Tim Burton and J.K. Rowling, and I have to agree. I had never come across the author before Mathias Malzieu who is a French musician. But the first thing that struck me about this book was the quality of writing and translation. It gently draws you in by the siren calls of its descriptions. They are just so beautiful. Let me give you a few examples:

Houses resemble steam engines, as the grey smoke exhaled by their chimneys sparkles in the steel sky.

Fountains metamorphose, one by one, into bouquets of ice.

Miraculously, the hoarfrost stitches sequins on to cats’ bodies.

It is so cold that birds freeze in mid-flight before crashing to the ground. The noise as they drop out of the sky is uncannily soft for a corpse.

Her frozen tears bounced off the ground, like beads from a broken necklace.

And that’s just from the first few pages.

The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart is a gothic fairytale set in Victorian Edinburgh, not quite real, which begins with the birth of Little Jack on the coldest day in history. Jack is born with a frozen heart which is put right by Dr. Madeleine, who lives in a pointy house right on top of Arthur’s Seat, ‘this sleeping volcano set in blue quartz‘. She has grafted a cuckoo clock in place of his heart and watches over him as he grows up. Soon he becomes curious of the outside world, and when she takes him down into Edinburgh, he spies Miss Acacia, a beautiful singer with bad eyesight. This sets his heart racing and Dr. Madeleine warns Little Jack not to fall in love. Regardless of her warning, he cannot forget Miss Acacia, and enrols in school to find her where he meets the bully Joe who is also in love with her. After a tragic accident, Jack leaves Edinburgh and everyone he loves behind on a quest to find his one true love.

This is a bittersweet fairytale for adults, and I loved it. Malzieu constructs a beautifully dark world, a glittering jewel, in which he maps out Jack’s life as he goes in search of Miss Acacia and unveils the mystery of Jack and his cuckoo clock heart. You can almost taste the cold chill of Edinburgh’s winter, and the heat of the fiery circus in which Jack finds Miss Acacia. This is a tale of love, passion and revenge beautifully wrapped up in a perfect little book. Perfect for October and the RIP IV Challenge.

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2 Responses to “The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu and Sarah Ardizzone”

  1. Nymeth Says:

    Oooh – I NEED this book!


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