Chocky by John Wyndham – #1968Club

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:

Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer

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!

26 thoughts on “Chocky by John Wyndham – #1968Club

  1. Café Society says:

    I remember Chocky coming out and being really excited at the publication of a new Wyndham novel. He was pretty much my favourite author at the time. My favourite of his books is The Crysalids. I strongly recommend it.

  2. Calmgrove says:

    Never got round to ‘Chocky’ or ‘The Crysalids’, but read both the Triffids and the Kraken novels in the late 60s. Somewhere I’ve a hardback collection of short stories called ‘Jizzle’ but I remember little about it apart from a humorous tale about a Chinese dragon and a Welsh one. Must dig it out sometime. His other titles have all been reissued recently, haven’t they, including a previously unpublished novel about UFOs and Nazis which I reviewed a year or two back. ‘Chocky’ sounds worth seeking out!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, most of Wyndham’s books seem to have been reissued, so I’m looking forward to exploring them all. I hadn’t heard of Jizzle but it sounds intriguing!

  3. margaretskea Author of prize winning historical novel Turn of the Tide says:

    So glad you enjoyed Chocky – I’ve a feeling I was one of the folk who recommended it – it is one of those books that remain with you – at least it did for me.

  4. Sandra says:

    I loved John Wyndham’s books back in the day. LIke you, I wasn’t, and am still not, a great fan of science fiction, but his books seemed grounded in reality somehow: perhaps more ‘earthbound’. I still have my collection of his books, including Chocky, yet strangely I remember none of the story. Time for a re-read perhaps! I too, would recommend The Chrysalids. A great book, said by some to be his best.

    • Helen says:

      ‘Earthbound’ is a great way to describe them. That’s exactly why I like John Wyndham’s books so much, despite not really being a science fiction fan. I’m looking forward to reading The Chrysalids.

  5. 1streading says:

    Having read some of Wyndham’s books in my teens (I can no longer be sure which ones!) I recently read The Chrysalids and enjoyed it. I’d certainly like to read some more (Penguin have reprinted most of them) including Chocky. British SF from the 50s/60s seems more relevant these days than American as it tends to be pessimistic!

  6. FictionFan says:

    One of my favourite Wyndhams without a doubt, so I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ll go along with everyone else’s recommendation of The Chrysalids, though to be honest I pretty much enjoy all of his books – all the ones I’ve read anyway. Have you read The Kraken Wakes yet? Another one I enjoyed…

    • Helen says:

      No, I haven’t read The Kraken Wakes yet. I will probably go with The Chrysalids for my next Wyndham, but it’s good to know that I’ll still have that one to look forward to as well!

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