Friday, 29 May 2015

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge - review by Dawn Finch

First the blurb….
When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.
Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family - before it's too late . . .

I was extremely pleased to see this book make it to the shortlist of the Carnegie Award 2015 as I had been looking forward to reading it greatly. One of the things that I enjoy most about Hardinge’s work is that she flamboyantly ignores the current pressure to avoid detailed descriptions. Her books are lavish and descriptive and this allows the reader to be completely absorbed into Hardinge’s extraordinary worlds.

Cuckoo Song is no exception, and I think it is her finest work to date. The book tells the story of a young girl (Triss) who wakes after some kind of mysterious accident. She knows that something is wrong, and something is very different, but she is unable to pin down exactly what has happened. Her sister fears and hates her, and her family are not quite telling everything. Triss is disturbed and upset by this, and when she weeps, she weeps cobwebs…..

This is the start of a rollercoaster adventure through a wild landscape that exists on the edge of the world that others consider to be real.

In a time of fashionable books that are set firmly in the real world, or books of spare content and simplicity, Cuckoo Song feels like a brave book. Its depth and intricacy feel more akin to quality fantasy fiction of the early 20th Century than the 21st, and that’s no bad thing. The imagined world feels close and personal here, and it quickly hooks you and pulls you in. I read it in one sitting as I could not bring myself to put it down. When you come up for air, you feel as if you've been somewhere else, somewhere beyond the rules of what is possible. Days after reading this you are still looking at the world as if something is not quite right with it. There are deliciously chilling moments in this book that remain with you long after you finish it (I can almost still hear the cold china-scrape of the dolls as they move, and see the blue flicker of the cinema screen.....)

Whilst reading this I realised that the book works beautifully when read aloud, and this is something that is hard to find. Not all books make good telling tales, but Cuckoo Song does. The writing is that of a true storyteller, and the world needs more storytellers.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge is published by Macmillan Children's Books
Isbn - 0330519735

Review by Dawn Finch - author of Brotherhood of Shades


1 comment:

C.J.Busby said...

I agree - I love this book. Not just the wonderfully intricate fantasy but the characters and their relationships - especially the two sisters. You might be interested in the interview I did with Frances on ABBA after Cuckoo Song came out (you'll have to search by label as the comments box won't let me post a link!)

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