The Cuckoo Boy

Grant Gillespie
To Hell With First Novels; €9.70

FICTION has always held up the mob as an example of corrupt society. Over the centuries novels such as Tobias Smollet’s The Expedition of Humphry Clinker on to Mark Twain’s Huck Finn and on again to Cormac McCarthy have counter-pointed the amorphous mass with a protagonist who sees things differently.

Gillespie’s debut novel from this quirky publisher relates the extraordinary story of an adopted boy, James, who ends up facing such a mob. His adopted parents, Sandra and Kenneth, bring James into their life at a very young age. But things are terribly wrong from the outset and get complicated when the toddler develops an imaginary friend, David. Nothing too worrying here as many children have these semi- spectral buddies. But James’ is ever-present, almost a projection of another personality. David is wilful and bold where James is careful and needy. This imagined friend stays with James as he grows past puberty.

Meanwhile, Sandra and Kenneth discover to their astonishment that she is pregnant, having thought she was infertile. Mother dotes over the new child; she is everything James isn’t, and she is really ‘hers’. A nightmare ensues with the death of the baby, with James, of course, implicated. Another death follows as the boy’s grandfather chokes on a fish bone. David stands by, watching him die.

David develops friendships with some local children and forms a gang. However, when he is pushed into a pit of rotting pig carcasses he takes horrific revenge torturing one boy to death.

With strong parallels to Golding’s Lord of the Flies which demonstrated the savage nature of humanity detached from civilisation, Gillespie’s superb debut avers that such isolation is possible within our own societies and that the consequences can be tragic. In this case, the mob rules.


Lifestyle

I’d always promised myself a day off school when Gay Bryne died.Secret diary of an Irish teacher: I’ve been thinking about my students, wondering who their ‘Gay Byrne’ will be

In an industry where women battle ageism and sexism, Meryl Streep has managed to decide her own destiny – and roles, writes Suzanne HarringtonJeepers Streepers: Hollywood royalty, all hail queen Meryl

'Ask Audrey' has been the newspaper's hysterical agony aunt “for ages, like”.Ask Audrey: Guten tag. Vot the f**k is the story with your cycle lanes?

Daphne Wright’s major new exhibition at the Crawford addresses such subjects as ageing and consumerism, writes Colette SheridanFinding inspiration in domestic situations

More From The Irish Examiner