What’s A Child’s Problem all about?:
A Child’s Problem focuses on a precocious young boy who is forced to go and live with his rich uncle and undergoes a rather haunting experience in his efforts to try and get to know his uncle a little better.
What did I think?:
Reggie Oliver is a well-respected British playwright, biographer and writer of ghost stories and has received numerous nominations for World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Stoker, International Horror Guild and the Shirley Jackson awards. Due to these numerous accolades, I found myself quite excited to discover his work, having never come across him in the past so a short story seemed the perfect place to begin. Now I’ve finished it and had some time to mull over it, I find myself in two minds about the story itself. On the one hand, it’s obvious the author can write and he’s excellent at creating an atmospheric narrative that makes you want to keep on reading but for some reason, this story just didn’t have enough bite for me. There was plenty of potential of course, but the direction it ended up taking just left me feeling slightly deflated.
A Child’s Problem follows a young boy, George who at nine years old is told that he must now live with his wealthy Uncle Augustus whilst his parents decamp to India for a while for his father’s work. At first, this seems like a big adventure for George, the house and grounds are large and there is plenty of opportunity for exploring however his Uncle is a difficult, rather sullen character who seems to have regretted agreeing to take George under his wing. On the interactions that they do have, he tries to get rid of him as soon as possible by giving him various quests around the property and puzzles to solve so that he can have a bit of peace. The puzzles that Augustus gives him however are a lot more sinister than first meets the eye and point to a dreadful history that leads George very quickly to be in terrible danger himself. As well as this, George is starting to see strange, shadowy figures under an old oak tree at the front of the house and he starts to wonder about the secrets that his Uncle Augustus believes he will keep hidden.
Interesting premise right? I was certainly intrigued and the writing was assured and captivating to read throughout the narrative. I was quite surprised that it was a bit longer than I was expecting and perhaps it suffered a bit for this length as about two-thirds of the way into it, unfortunately I began to lose interest. There are a host of unlikeable characters to get to grips with, which I always enjoy in a story but for some reason, even when some are in mortal danger, I still didn’t connect with them as much as I would have liked. Reggie Oliver certainly has a gift for writing eerie settings and some of the scenes, in particular when George finds the family tombs are quite chilling but sadly, by the end of the story, I just didn’t feel like I understood properly what it was all about and why exactly everything played out the way it did. This is just my personal opinion, however and I’m sure other readers would love it for the quality of the writing alone.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: At The Mountain Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.