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Editorial Reviews

There is a very specific audience for French pop star Mathias Malzieu’s third book: European fans of his music, English-speaking fans of gothic emo fare like Tim Burton or Stephenie Meyer, and international academics hankering for some new wave French sensualism. Sarah Ardizzone, who has won numerous major awards for her translations of French children’s books, seems to have done an exceptional job with Malzieu’s often unfocused writing, elevating it to a level of poetry that may often help you forget that the author has not properly fleshed out some bits of characterization and plot. Alongside a superior translation is the extremely entertaining narrative capability of Jim Dale, who has won a record 10 Audie Awards, in addition to two Grammy Awards and a bunch more nominations.

Dale transforms the author’s unsophisticated probing of a 14-year-old boy’s emotional depths as much as possible into a heart-wrenching and engrossing tale of two star-crossed lovers. Little Jack, whose heart uses a cuckoo clock for a pacemaker, is finally strong enough at age nine to go into town, where he falls immediately in love with Miss Acacia, a touring young singer with terrible eyesight. After several years spent pining for this girl on the strength of one hour’s connection, Jack makes his way through foreign lands and many perils to win her over. He encounters the problem of her previous lover, a bully named Joe, as well as the general problem of their rocky teenage emotional turmoil. One of the most surprising and thought-provoking bits is an utterly bizarre conversation with Jack the Ripper, who little Jack meets while travelling by train.

As the scene hopscotches across Europe, Dale expertly and seamlessly transitions from Edinburgh brogue to London lilt, from Parisian plosives to Andalusian rolling r’s. His portrayal of each character is less like narrating and more like acting, as the best voice work should be. With Malzieu’s penchant for romantic doom and gloom, there is plenty of overly emotional fodder for Dale to really showcase his full range. in many places, the author aspires to be Roald Dahl, but ends up passing up on chances to do something significant with his characters. This is certainly a book that is better heard than read, as Jim Dale gives a magical liveliness and credibility to what would otherwise be a forgettable, simplistic tale of one special boy’s rained upon parade. As it stands, The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart is a great example of what a truly gifted narrator can do with a relatively ordinary book. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary

A fantastical novel, a wildly inventive tale—by turns poignant and funny, lusty and wrenching—about love and heartbreak. Edinburgh, 1874: Born with a frozen heart, Jack is nearly dead 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. It is in her orphanage that Jack grows up, amid tear-filled flasks, eggs containing memories, 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, he does: on his 10th 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 it’s not only Jack’s heart that’s at risk, it’s his very life—and doubly so when he injures the school bully in a fight for the affections of the beautiful singer. Now begins a wild journey, of escape and pursuit, from Edinburgh to Paris to Miss Acacia’s home in Andalusia, where Jack will finally learn the great joys, and ultimately the greater costs, of owning a fully formed heart.

©2007 Mathias Malzieu; Copyright Fammarion (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“[A]ffords considerable escapist pleasures….Malzieu sketches European landscapes and crafts figurative language with irresistible relish….Calling to mind a host of cultural touchstones, from Pinocchio to The Wizard of Oz, this kaleidoscopic picaresque will enchant many adults and young people alike.” (Publishers Weekly)
Malzieu's prose is distinctly original, spitting and fizzing with unique similes and striking metaphors, wonderfully translated by Sarah Ardizzone. (Guardian)
“A phantasmagorical novel." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Grace
  • East Windsor, CT, USA
  • 03-07-10

Fantasticly Engulfing

From the free first chapter, until the last quiet moments of the end: wonderful. Beautifully written, touching story that is difficult to step away from. Jim Dale's narrative voice creates such well chosen character and depth to an already captivating tale. To say I thoroughly enjoyed this experience doesn't seem enough.. listening to it a second time to soak it in all over again! Why has this author not had more on :)

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not what I wanted

This story was almost as disappointing as "Love Never Dies". It sounded like it was going to be an amazing, slightly steampunk story with with goodness from my favorite period. Instead there are references to charles bronson, clingy leopard outfits and four years vanishes from the narration with just a sentence. Well read and accented by music but not the story I'd wanted it to be.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Jim Dale is the only reason to listen

Jim Dale's performance is touching, moving, even wrenching, but his great work is wasted on a story I didn't like at all. I do not enjoy tales of misfortune that end sadly so it's no surprise this one left me cold.

The story meanders oddly and to me pointlessly and in the end leaves the listener feeling empty. I'm sure there are important life morals to be found in this story, but I have no desire to spend even thirty seconds trying to think of them.

Still, I'm glad to have heard Jim Dale's performance so it wasn't a total waste, but only the staunchest Jim Dale fan should spend a nickel on this one.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Strange and unusual

I, myself, am strange and unusual. This story is told from Jack's point of view. He falls in love with a girl, and after a fight at school caused by the girls ex, and the steep percussionist from it, is forced to leave town. Jack finds himself with the girl again, but getting people used to his heart which is made from a cuckoo clock is where the real story lies.
Not exactly for children; some of the descriptions have sexual tendencies (I'd say no one under 13 at least), but the story in itself is imaginative and beautiful, with a biting reality ending. People think it's sad, I just think it gives a good lesson.
Jim Dale, as always, makes this book worth listening to.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Matt
  • United States
  • 09-20-13

Even the amazing Jim Dale couldn't save it.

Would you try another book from Mathias Malzieu and Sarah Ardizzone (translator) and/or Jim Dale?

Yes, to Jim Dale. No to the author. The book description seemed so interesting and inventive but it just ended up weird and crude.

What do you think your next listen will be?

not sure.

Which character – as performed by Jim Dale – was your favorite?

Jim Dale does amazing with Scottish accents. So it's a treat to listen to him do everyone.

Do you think The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

no, i could barely finish the first one.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Julie
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 11-08-10

My favorite narrator

I would pay to listen to Jim Dale read the phone book.

Oh, and the book is great, too.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

We watched to movie for this book on netflix and wanted to listen to it too. I have 8 and 11 year old boys... About half way through he starts having dreams and fantasies... and a few chapters later I stopped letting the kids listen to it. It's well written and preformed and overall probably brilliant! But don't let the movie or the title fool you, this is NOT a kids book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Little toosticky in the middle

If you could sum up The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart in three words, what would they be?

Interesting, could be better

Would you recommend The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart to your friends? Why or why not?

I would recommended, because it is an interesting story, but the middle part could have been at least 3 chapters shorter as I didn't think it added anything to the story and was little too sickly sweet for my taste.

Have you listened to any of Jim Dale’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

it is hard to listen Jim Dale and not visualise Harry Potter. he is a good performer, may be just too well known for Mr Potter for Mr Dale's good.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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It was good, but I wasn't blown away

I struggled to finish the book. This being said I watched the film thay was released on Netflix so maybe o was bored as it followed along to an extent. Although, the book picked up near the end and I found myself extremely engaged in the story. The ending was "untraditonal" and actually very clever. I had been wanting to read this book for 8 years and I finally got around to it. Definitely recommend if you like whimsical characters and that touch of fantasy in a very relatable world.

  • Overall
  • Performance

Not for me

I was interested because Jim Dale was reading for it. Truly bazaar and turned it off.