The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu

Addition: Borrowed hard back

Genre: Love and Fantasy

Rating: 4/5


Edinburgh, 1874: Little Jack is born with a frozen heart and immediately undergoes a life-saving operation — the implantation of a cuckoo-clock in his chest. From then on his days all begin with a wind-up, in this dark, tender fairy tale spiced with devilish humour.

I borrowed this book as my friend gave it a really good review, and I am glad I did. the cover is gorgeous and definitely helped attract me to the book, but it was the story line and the delicious use of language which kept me gripped.

The story is about Little Jack. He is born with a frozen heart, so Dr. Madeleine fits him with a wind-up cuckoo-clock to keep his heart going. As he grows up and is put up for adoption it quickly becomes clear that Little Jack’s ticking is putting off potential parents so Madeleine chooses to keep him and bring him up herself. All is going well until Little Jack breaks a vital rule: he falls in love. This causes bullying at school, and an accident that sees him fleeing from Edinburgh. He follows his heart and travels across Europe to find Miss Acacia, the girl he loves. On his travels he learns about the pain love and jealous can cause and ultimately sees his life changing forever.

I found the beginning of this book slow, but it soon picked up! The language is just beautiful. It is so descriptive and inviting. My favourite quote from the book is:

“We love each other like two matches in the dark. We don’t talk, we just catch fire instead. Our kisses are an inferno as an earthquake registers across my entire body, all one metre sixty-six and a half centimetres of it. My heart escapes its prison. It flies away through the arteries, settling in my head. My heart is in every muscle, all the way through to my fingertips. A savage sun, everywhere. It’s a romantic disease with reddish glints.”

The love in this book is passionate and compelling, but ultimately this is a sad story. Jealousy and mistrust floats through this book and destroys all that is beautiful. The book has a sombre end but that does not spoil it at all. It is not what you would expect, which makes a nice change.

I loved Little Jack. I loved the way he followed his heart, even to the point of destruction. I felt for him as he was bullied by Tom, and how he struggled with a whole range of emotions. I felt so much empathy for him, and loved the people he surrounded himself with, including Melies, Anna and Luna. They support him and care for him like family.

The imagination in this book is great; from Madeleine and her medical inventions to the language and descriptions Malzieu uses. It is amazing that this is a translation – I didn’t notice at all. Aside from the slow beginning I loved everything about this book. At times my heart ached and at other times I enjoyed the humour in the book. This is a short book, small and sweet, and so readable. One I got to about page 60 I whizzed through the story and could not put the book down. I highly recommend this novel 🙂

Translator: Sarah Ardizzone

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