Cuckoo Song

February 17, 2015 - 8:57 pm No Comments

Frances Hardinge
8th May 2014
Macmillan Children’s Books
416pp

Eleven year old Triss (Theresa) is on holiday with her family when she wakes up in bed in the midst of a fever, having apparently had an accident at the Grimmer. But Triss is used to being ill. Whenever she makes new friends or tries to embark on new adventures, her mother pulls her back inside locking her in her room until she becomes better. However, something is truly wrong with Triss this time. She wakes up every day with a ravenous hunger, and no amount of food will satisfy her. She finally takes to eating her own dolls and jewellery to try and assuage the deep hunger possessing her, but hardly anything seems to work. And her sister is scared of her; she claims there is something wrong with Triss and she is not real. The family are also grieving the disappearance of brother Sebastian lost in the war. But if he is truly lost, why is the family still receiving letters from him, hidden in a draw at night.
In an incredibly dark period piece, post WWI set in England, Hardinge explores the essence of identity and fear, sibling rivalry and familial relationships as Triss and her sister have to learn to work together to find out what is wrong with Triss and what has happened to Sebastian. Much like Wyndham, there is a sense of the cosy catastrophe here, blended with sparkling fantasy, as the children go on a journey of exploration that will change them forever. At times spooky (you will never look at dolls in the same way) and poignant, this novel shows that children’s literature can be challenging and dark. The characters are well drawn, and the tendency to try and lock Triss away from reality, excitement or harm is similar to literary classics such as The Yellow Wallpaper.
Cuckoo Song is a magnificent book that will stay with the reader for a very long time.

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