08 September 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart

“Thirdly: never, ever fall in love. For if you do, the hour hand will poke through your skin, your bones will shatter, and your heart will break once more.” - Mathias Malzieu, 'The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart'
Someone posted these lines on Facebook, and I knew I had to read the book. Lines like these attract me to a novel much like nectar does a bee. And with that title! It made me think of Haruki Murakami and his twisted love stories.

This is the story of Little Jack, who was abandoned by his mother at birth and was left in the care of the "mad-wife", Madeline-- also a suspected witch and a mechanical prosthetist. As he was born on the coldest day of the year, he was born with a frozen heart, so Madeline attached a cuckoo clock to his heart, which has to be wound everyday with a key. Little Jack grew up an outsider, considered a freak because of his cuckoo clock heart. But he found friends in the form of Arthur, with musical spines on his back; Anna, a prostitute with a prosthetic quartz eye that changes color with the weather; Luna, a tight rope walker with a walnut wood prosthetic leg; and a hamster he named Cunnilingus. Because of his cuckoo clock heart, Madeline warns him to control his anger and never ever fall in love.

Then one day he comes across Ms. Acacia -- a miniscule girl with a voice like a nightingale's, eyes like pools and eyelids like parasols-- who makes his clock go cuckoo. He goes on a crazed hunt for her, which leads him to a school fight where he pokes another boy's eye out, after which he escapes the police and goes to Andalusia still in search of the elusive Ms. Acacia. In Andalusia, Little Jack falls in love, gets his heart broken (figuratively and quite literally), and discovers the truth about himself.

Malzieu likes metaphors (maybe a little too much) and his prose is full of imagery, which I liked. The characters are colorful and unique. But I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. With all the pretty wrappings of words and imagery, the novel still comes off as hollow. The words say that Little Jack is in love, but I never actually felt he was in love. When he was supposed to be in pain, I didn't feel it either. Maybe something was lost in translation (the novel was originally written in French), but it somehow fell short in conveying emotion. 

It is an engaging read though, and I enjoyed reading it. It was also beautifully written, with words woven like tapestry. If you're a sucker for pretty words like I am, you will like it. I know I'm going to read it again sometime.

Rating: 3.5/5

(Originally posted HERE, which was supposed to be my new blog, but I felt sentimental and decided to stick with Blogger. Hehe.)

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