07 November, 2015


Title: The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Author: Mathias Malzieu
Series: -
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Source: Paperback (Spanish Edition)
Pages: 176

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SYNOPSIS: FIRSTLY: don’t touch the hands of your cuckoo-clock heart. SECONDLY: master your anger. 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.

Edinburgh, 1874. Born with a frozen heart, Jack is near death when his mother abandons him to the care of Dr. Madeleine—witch doctor, midwife, protector of orphans—who saves Jack by placing a cuckoo clock in his chest. And it is in her orphanage that Jack grows up among tear-filled flasks, eggs containing memories, and a man with a musical spine.

As Jack gets older, Dr. Madeleine warns him that his heart is too fragile for strong emotions: he must never, ever fall in love. And, of course, this is exactly what he does: on his tenth birthday and with head-over-heels abandon. The object of his ardor is Miss Acacia—a bespectacled young street performer with a soul-stirring voice. But now Jack’s life is doubly at risk—his heart is in danger and so is his safety after he injures the school bully in a fight for the affections of the beautiful singer.

Now begins a journey of escape and pursuit, from Edinburgh to Paris to Miss Acacia’s home in Andalusia. Mathias Malzieu’s The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart is a fantastical, wildly inventive tale of love and heartbreak—by turns poignant and funny—in which Jack finally learns the great joys, and ultimately the greater costs, of owning a fully formed heart.

Another book I read a long long time ago... probably when I was 14 or so and that's the reason why I don't even remember the expectations I had. I don't even think I had expectations although it was a book I had heard about before because it was really popular in France.

By the way can I just say that I hate when they change the original titles for others with no catch at all? The original title would've translated as "The Mechanics of the Heart" which in my opinion is much more catching, what a pity.

THE WORLD: As written in the summary, the book takes places in 19th century Edinburgh. No further description needed right?

CHARACTERS: The main character is Jack. He was born during the coldest day ever on Earth and thus his heart froze the instant he came into this world and Dr. Madeleine had to replace it with a cuckoo clock –hence the title of this book. Jack's mother didn't want him so Dr. Madeleine raised him and gave him the three rules he must always follow in order for his cuckoo heart not to stop:

Firstly: don’t touch the hands of your cuckoo-clock heart.
Secondly: master your anger.
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.

Well, the first two can be eventually mastered, with some training and patience because Jack is bullied in school by a boy named Joe so Jack has to really try to master them ("try" is the key word) but the third? Don't fall in love? Not a chance when he grows up... and that's what happens. The first day Jack is allowed to go with Dr. Madeleine to the town center he sees a pretty nearly-blind girl singing and dancing and he's immediately drawn to her. This girl, Miss Acacia, returns to Spain shortly after and Jack finds himself following her, which, if you recall is an adventure by itself because to get from Edinburgh to Andalusia in the 19th century wasn't an easy task. It was an adventure indeed. In his quest to find the girl he loves Jack has to stick to the rules more than ever, specially around Joe because he is also in love with Miss Acacia.

LOVE: It is not really a love triangle here although it may seem like one but it is actually simpler. Jack and Joe both fall in love with Miss Acacia but she doesn't know so she returns to Spain and minds her own business while Jack and Joe travel Europe... I won't spoil the end, no worries ;)

PLUS: The cover! This is an oddly interesting yet eye-catching cover. I have the other version, where there are two cute toy-like figures (Jack and Miss Acacia). Wait, I'll show you, this one:

It may not be as interesting as the English one but I believe it's super cute nonetheless. So that's one plus, the cover. The second plus I think is Jack, because of his cuckoo-heart his thoughts are somewhat weird sometimes... he's always thinking of his safety which is good but in some situations he just doesn't make sense of them. He can be quite funny.
Another plus was the equilibrium there was between the bubbly teen romance and the darkness the story hides. Sure it is a romance teen novel but it has a dark edge, a grey tone... I don't know how to describe it. Oh, and there are some lines that may tear you up a bit.

The ending! May I warn you it is not a happy one?

MINUS: The story is centered around romance. I didn't particularly care for this romance because it felt too one-dimensional... the typical I fell in love you the very first second I saw you and now I will do whatever to be with you. Oh well, although a cliché I must admit it was still cute. The other minus was that at times the consistency of the story flopped, one minute Miss Acacia danced flamenco and the next tango (it is not the same, not even paso doble and tango are the same) for example. Rookie mistakes.

OVERALL: 3.5-4 stars. I enjoyed this book, I re-read it from time to time as well and the feeling is always the same. It has some Tim Burton style in it but it wasn't well developed. It could've been better. I'd still recommend it to everyone up for a light read (with some obscure message hidden) who don't have super high expectations about it and just want to read in their spare time while drinking a warm cup of coffee/tea/chocolate.

EXTRA: For the ones who don't feel like reading it but are interested in the story, there is also a movie from 2013 called Jack and the Cuckoo Heart. Judging by the trailer (yeah I haven't watched it myself) it has more fantasy than the book but may be worth a try.

What do you guys think about THE BOY WITH THE CUCKOO-CLOCK HEART?