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The Cuckoo Boy by Grant Gillespie

The Cuckoo Boy (2010)

by Grant Gillespie

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The Cuckoo Boy, by Grant Gillespie (To Hell With First Novels, £8)

Enterprising new publisher To Hell With . . . states its intent with Gillespie's emotionally visceral debut. James, the Cuckoo Boy of the title, is adopted by a childless, uptight suburban couple, Sandra and Kenneth. From the start the baby does not respond, preferring instead to zone out in sleep. Gradually, as he develops and chooses in his own time to walk and talk, he blocks his parents out by referring constantly to an invisible friend, David. Treated at first with amused tolerance, David proves to be a mendacious doppelganger. The appearance of a real-life David, by contrast gentle and amiable, creates a diabolical conflict for James, as does the unexpected arrival of a sister. The spectre of Lionel Shriver's Kevin is omnipresent, particularly in the black comedy and ambiguous aspects of the tale. Yet this is a confident, impressive work in its own right.

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With heartbreaking simplicity, 'The Cuckoo Boy' charts the quiet destruction a middle class childhood might sometimes, unexpectedly, wreak.

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