Richard and Janet Gayford are in London on the 26th September so are perturbed when they return the next day to find their return to the sleepy village of Midwich blocked. They set off over the fields only to discover that the whole village has stopped; from the cows to the ladies in the Post Office. And when life returns to Midwich, it soon becomes apparent that something else happened that day. All the women of child-bearing age are mysteriously pregnant.
“A visitation,” the Vicar of St Mary’s told him. “Specifically, the infliction of a plague of – er – babies.”
I expected The Midwich Cuckoos to be creepier than it was. I can probably blame The Village of the Damned for that (more on the film later). Instead, I felt a bit sorry for the children of Midwich. The circumstances which make them violent are pretty horrific when you take in all the information about them. They are only trying to survive. And like many of Wyndham’s books, it imagines a scenario where humans are not the top of the evolutionary ladder any more.
Is it because Nature is ruthless, hideous, and cruel beyond belief that is was necessary to invent civilization.
I adored the little village and their community spirit, at least in the earlier parts. Like the fact that everyone’s concerned that the bus hasn’t turned up and they keep sending more in. Once they realise the women are pregnant, they close rank, looking after each other and keeping the media out. Who can imagine that happening these days? And when the military are trying to work out what’s going on they stick a bird in a cage on a stick and poke it across the “barrier”. It’s all so wonderfully low tech.
Considering the supernatural pregnancy trope has got a bit of a bad rep of late, I think it’s pretty well handled here, especially for the time it was written (1957). Was it the first story of this kind? Did it start it all? It’s not something that leaves the women unaffected, even as the children grow, they are torn over it. Some move away, not wanting to be reminded of the violation. It’s all too much for some of the younger, unmarried girls as we see with tragic consequences. But overall the village is encouraged to support them all, for it is not their fault.
He can never know what it’s like, even in a normal way – so what sort of an idea can he have of this? – Of how it feels to lie awake at night with the humiliating knowledge that one is simply being used? – As if one were not a person at all, but just kind of a mechanism, a sort of incubator…
So after reading the book, we watched the film from 1960 (I dread to think what the remake’s like). It’s pretty slow and low key, just like the book. I’ve got to say I was very impressed with the special effects considering the time and the fact they weren’t using computers. The glowy eyes were very convincing!
The main character and his wife are completely removed from the film. In the novel, it’s his job to tell the story as an independent observer almost, so it makes sense that he’s not needed when the camera does that job.
Warning, the trailer contains massive spoilers. Plus it makes it look a lot more dramatic than it actually is.
Finally, it was amazing the amount of people that came up to me when I was reading Midwich to tell me that it was their favourite book or they love Wyndham. Including an old lady on a park bench who said she had read it so many times. Hurrah for Windy lovers!
Book Source: Purchased
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