When I read The Day of the Triffids earlier this year a few people recommended Chocky as my next Wyndham. Chocky was published in 1968 (developed from an earlier novella which appeared in the magazine Amazing Stories in 1963) so it seemed a perfect choice for this week’s 1968 Club, the latest of the events hosted by Karen and Simon in which participants read and write about books from a chosen year.
David Gore, the narrator of Chocky, becomes concerned when he overhears his adopted son, Matthew, having a conversation with what he assumes is an imaginary friend. Apart from the fact that Matthew is almost twelve years old and is surely past the age when he should be playing this sort of game, it also seems to be a very strange conversation, not the sort you would expect children to have. Soon Matthew is asking some unusual questions: Why are there only seven days in a week and not eight? Where is Earth? And, more bizarrely, why do cows stop?
David and his wife, Mary, have had some experience with this sort of thing. Just a few years earlier, their daughter Polly had been inseparable from her own invisible friend, Piff. They can sense, though, that this is different. While Polly – who had been five years old at the time – had been very much in control of Piff, it appears to be the other way round with Matthew and Chocky. Matthew is unable to tell his parents Chocky’s age, where Chocky comes from or even whether Chocky is male or female (he eventually settles on female). It’s all quite worrying for David and Mary who don’t know how to help their son – or even if he really needs to be helped at all.
Who or what is Chocky? Is she a positive influence on Matthew or a harmful one? And what should his parents do about it? This is a very short novel – about 160 pages in the edition I read – so I am not going to say much more about the plot. What I will say is that it’s not difficult to guess what is going on; I made my mind up about Chocky almost immediately and I was right. David and Mary, however, are unaware of the truth and so the interest is in watching them each try to deal with the situation in their own way. Should they just ignore all mentions of Chocky and hope she goes away, as Piff did? Do they need to get a doctor involved? The only thing they agree on is that, although Matthew doesn’t seem at all frightened or unhappy, his behaviour is certainly not normal.
I loved Chocky; it’s the perfect sort of science fiction for me – that is, for someone who doesn’t usually choose to read it! Like The Midwich Cuckoos (my favourite of the three Wyndham novels I’ve read so far), this book features ordinary people living quiet, uneventful lives…until something slightly out of the ordinary happens and shakes them out of their peaceful existence. The science fiction elements are subtle – in fact, until the final chapter, it’s as much a domestic novel about the relationship between parents and children as it is a science fiction one.
This was a great choice for 1968 Club and I’m already looking forward to my next John Wyndham book, whichever that will be. I have also read another book from 1968 for the club, but haven’t finished my review yet so that one will be coming later in the week.
More 1968 books previously read and reviewed:
Usually I am able to post a list of books from the relevant year which I’ve previously reviewed on my blog, but this time I can only find one. It seems that 1968 books have not featured very strongly in my reading until now!