Book Review: Cuckoo in the Nest by Michelle Magorian

May 18, 2016 Book review 1 ★★★★

A Cuckoo in the Nest by Michelle Magorian tells the story of a family in post war 1940s England. Ralph’s family is full of tension, of family members who no longer know or understand each other and the generation gap has never seemed greater.


Book Review: Cuckoo in the Nest by Michelle MagorianCuckoo in the Nest by Michelle Magorian
Published by Egmont UK on October 1st 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

A wonderfully nostalgic story about one boy’s determination to follow his dreams
Amid the rubble of post-war Britain, Ralph is entranced by the theater. He loves seeing the performances, talking to the actors, the buzz of the audience, and the corridors and dressing rooms backstage. But how can a working-class boy achieve his dream when there is no opportunity for theater training?

Historical middle grade ReReadable Well Written Young Adult


First line of A Cuckoo’s Nest by Michelle Magorian:

‘No suicides this week,’ Aunt Win announced, laying the newspaper flat on the kitchen table.


My Thoughts on A Cuckoo’s Nest by Michelle Magorian:

This book captured my heart and this family of strong personalities drew me and held my attention until the very last page.

Ralph wants to be an actor to his father’s horror and despite every obstacle put in his way, he marches on doggedly towards his goal. Watching him fight and work like a dog to prove himself made me respect him so much. And the theatre scenes were authentic and engaging, I felt part of the inner circle and got a real insight into how it all worked.

And I didn’t just like Ralph, I felt like I got to understand every character in this family and they all felt real to me. There is an innocence and an uplifting feel to the book but it doesn’t downplay either the struggle of all to find their way again after the war. There was a lot of misery and poverty and it could all have felt grim. But it didn’t as there was a lot of unspoken love going around and it gave the book heart.

All the characters are struggling to readjust to life after the war and all have changed during the war years.  Ralph is out of step with the rest of his family as he spent the war years living with a Rector and has received a higher education than the rest of his family.  His father is glad to be home from the front and to have his family all together again but the adjustment is hard for him.  And it must have been a horrible anti-climax for so many families who would have dreamt for so long of happy family reunions and a world returning to normal but ended up facing with a very different reality. I really appreciated how the plot got dark and gritty as they all try to make sense of their new/old world.

Overall I loved it. It had a lot more depth than I was expecting a Children’s book to have and it quite honestly touched my heart.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: four-stars


Who should read A Cuckoo’s Nest by Michelle Magorian?

If you like children’s fiction with interesting characters and a really strong sense of post-war Britain, then I’d highly recommend this to you.  Fans of Goodnight, Mr Tom and Back Home by same author should also enjoy this one.  I’d also recommend it to you like authors such as Noel Streatfeild or Antonia Forest.


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