Cuckoo in the Nest is a wonderful, moving and funny novel (/memoir?). It’s a quiet domestic drama portraying a ‘nice middle-class British family’, set in 1976.
Her mother dead, her alcoholic father a danger to her, Jackie is placed in foster care with the Wall family. Jackie is 14, old and wise beyond her years in some ways, and still an innocent young teenager in others. She writes poetry and just wants a calm, quiet life.
It quickly becomes apparent that the Wall’s teenage daughter Amanda bitterly resents Jackie’s presence in the home and her parents’ attention to her. Bit by bit, the cracks appear, the family start to unravel.
The novel is wonderfully paced, beautifully written and very funny. The dialogue is excellent. Jackie is naturally witty: her foster-father, ‘Uncle’ Nick gets her, her foster-mother, Bridget, doesn’t and Amanda just seethes. Yet all are portrayed with understanding and humanity.
I was 16 in 1976, and I loved being thrown back into the domestic environment of the time. It’s left me with 70s pop hits running through my head and a craving for ham and potato salad.
And what a fabulous cover!
You might also like: