I didn’t sign up to the blog tour for Cuckoo in the Nest because I didn’t think I could review in time and then the tour would be over before I could post my review. However, I love Fran Hill’s writing and Cuckoo in the Nest kept calling to me (pun intended) and with my enormous thanks to Olivia Le Maistre for sending me a copy of Cuckoo in the Nest in return for an honest review, I’m delighted to share my thoughts today.
I’ve also reviewed Fran’s Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? here.
I also stayed in with Fran in a post you’ll find here.
Published by Legend Press on 26th April 2023, Cuckoo in the Nest is available for purchase here.
Cuckoo in the Nest
It’s the heatwave summer of 1976 and 14-year-old would be poet Jackie Chadwick is newly fostered by the Walls. She desperately needs stability, but their insecure, jealous teenage daughter isn’t happy about the cuckoo in the nest and sets about ousting her.
When her attempts to do so lead to near-tragedy – and the Walls’ veneer of middle-class respectability begins to crumble – everyone in the household is forced to reassess what really matters.
Funny and poignant, Cuckoo in the Nest is inspired by Fran Hill’s own experience of being fostered. A glorious coming of age story set in the summer of 1976.
My Review of Cuckoo in the Nest
Jackie’s life is tricky.
Cuckoo in the Nest is glorious – written with Fran Hill’s characteristic mix of emotion and humour that gets right to the heart of her characters and brings them into vivid life for her readers, laying bare their innermost thoughts, hopes and fears. Through this wonderful narrative Fran Hill explores the veneer of personality that we so often place over our true feelings and emotions to provide a persona to the world that belies our messy, flawed truths. She also illustrates to perfection why people behave as they do and how they can worsen situations whilst trying to atone for other perceived ills. This is such engaging, mature and intelligent writing. It’s funny too.
Equally evocative is the cultural 1976 setting for the story through such references of food, television, the hot weather and music for example. They transported me right back to being a teenager when I was a year older than Jackie in the story, because they are so perfectly observed. As the theme of fostering is so relevant to today, Cuckoo in the Nest feels simultaneously modern and nostalgic so that it tugs at the reader’s emotions in a perfect blend.
Jackie is a triumph. The way her experiences are depicted acts as a voice for all those whose lives are not conventionally lived in a warm and loving home. Through Jackie’s placement with her foster family the Walls, Fran Hill peels back the layers of ostensibly perfect society and reveals many kinds of dysfunction that are sensitively handled and brilliantly engaging to read about. Amanda in particular shows the pressures a teenage girl can experience. My heart went out to her every bit as much as it did to Jackie. There’s a fabulous authenticity within the narrative that made me recall youngsters I’ve taught whose lives were similar and this aspect makes the book all the more affecting.
As well as including engaging characters and a plot that examines real life, Cuckoo in the Nest has so many elements that add layer upon layer of enjoyment for the reader. Jackie’s witty speech, her poetry, Bridget’s domestic obsessions, Amanda’s eating and so on all add a perfectly balanced lightness of touch and depth of feeling that I thought was brilliant.
Having had possibly unrealistically high expectations for this book, I’m delighted to say I adored Cuckoo in the Nest because is warm, witty and wonderful. Don’t miss it!
About Fran Hill
Fran Hill is a writer and (semi) retired English teacher living in Warwickshire, England. Fran has written three books: a novella called Being Miss (self-published 2014), a funny teacher-memoir called Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? (SPCK 2020) and a novel called Cuckoo in the Nest published by Legend Press in April 2023.
Fran is a member of the Society of Authors and the Association of Christian Writers and was selected for the prestigious Room 204 emerging writers’ programme run by Writing West Midlands in 2016-17.
For more information, visit Fran’s website, or her blog, find her on Facebook or follow Fran on Twitter @franhill123.