Book review – The Wrong Child by Barry Gormell

What’s the Story?

The Wrong Child is the stark and grim tale of Dog Evans, lone survivor when the school building in his rural village collapses. An outcast already, Dog is loathed and dreaded by the rest of the village, a reminder of the loss they faced. Gornell paints an incredibly bleak and hopeless picture of struggle and survival, his description at times is quite uncomfortable and raw which makes the reader really feel what Dog and the other children are experiencing alongside their parents. Abandoned by his parents, Dog is left to roam free in the desolate village, enraging the remaining villagers, pushing them to drastic action. The flashbacks to before the school collapsing provide context and understanding to the difficult tale.


Barry Gornell seemingly has a knack for creating truly an unsettling and disturbing atmosphere as it hangs over this story like a fog, enveloping the characters and setting, creating a truly murky scenario. His descriptions throughout the book are grotesquely vivid, totally real but with the ability to make the reader squirm, the image of Dog eating a worm particularly stands out with the entire process being lengthened out in repulsive fashion. This lends itself well to the world Gornell is trying to create however, this bleak look at human grief and loss is perfectly compounded by the realistic description. Through his writing, the village and its inhabitants are brought to life and truly illicit a reaction, whether it be one of shock, sympathy or feeling troubled at the events that unfold


The depressing and grim narrative may prove to be a little too much for some however, as the book is relentless in its misery, which may put off those looking for a more light hearted affair. The overall dark tone of the book does fit the story it is trying to tell but also has the potential to alienate and put off many potential readers as it truly conjures up feelings of discomfort.


Those looking for a truly dark thriller, full of suspense and questions should definitely give The Wrong Child a read. The book has previously been described as being similar to novels such as We Need to Talk about Kevin, which is a fair comparison as it creates it follows a similar dark tale and all the moral ambiguity that follows it.

Read a sample chapter here

 Wrong Child extract


With The Wrong Child, Barry Gornell, weaves a tale of remorse, loss and blame. The rural setting lends a claustrophobic and uncomfortable feel to the events that unfold. A gripping and uncomfortable read which truly looks at human behaviour and how we deal with tragedy, with a hopeful message coming through at the end amongst the misery, truly thought provoking.

The Wrong Child by Barry Gornell, Orion Books, £13.99.

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