editor's choice



Matt Wesolowski’s Changeling is like a masterclass in how to construct a good plot. It’s exacting, clever and chilling, while using themes and motifs of which we are all culturally aware, and of which we’re fearful, in ways that constantly challenge our perception, making us question what’s truth and what’s reality – and frankly whether we really care as it’s all so mesmerising anyway. It’s a good piece of writing in a twenty-first century format that will translate, in the right hands, beautifully to screen. It’s no surprise, therefore, that it’s been optioned.

I was thinking the other day about how my reading and film tastes often don’t complement each other. How what I love to read doesn’t necessarily equate to what I actively devour on the big screen. And yet, there are common themes. In books, as in film, I appreciate a compelling protagonist, tight dialogue, clever writing, humour (especially when it’s black), beauty, a brilliantly mapped twisting plot. Yet what I dislike more than anything is being consciously manipulated – when a plot is like a checklist of what a writer, studio or publisher thinks might scare, amuse or enchant an intended demographic. It’s the main reason why I’m less than enamoured with Blair Witch, for example, which I find clumsy, patronising and cinematographically extremely irritating to watch. None of this applies to Changeling which is intelligent, deft of hand and respectful of its audience’s ability to get where Wesolowski wants us to be.

While I was reading it, I was struck by how English it feels – the folklore, the superstition, the people, the locale, the grittiness, and yet it’s not. It’s a story that could be set anywhere, on the eastern seaboard of Canada or a remote part of Norway, as every culture has an area that’s mired in myth, tragedy, horror, with a local bogeyman or monster, real or imagined, attached to it. Changeling’s very universality is what makes it so appealing. That’s good writing.

Changeling | Matt Wesolowski | Orenda Books | paperback original | £8.99

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Music to listen to: PJ Harvey, Let England Shake; Nick Cave/Warren Ellis, Loin des hommesThe Shining soundtrack.


Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Many thanks to the wonder that is Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) and to Orenda Books for supplying a book proof. All thoughts and opinions are our own. Image ‘Reading to creepy music, why?’ © The Literary Shed 2019.

See also: ‘Remembrance of things past: The Old You’; ‘RO Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘We should all be feminists’; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers‘; ‘Staalesen;s Big Sisters, a nod to Chandler‘; ‘Valley of the Dolls, 50 years on‘; ‘Jane Harper’s stylish debut – The Dry’; ‘Mallory an old-style hero – It Happens in the Dark by Carol O’Connell’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’.

Film: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) – a Billy Wilder classic?; Night Mail (1936), changing the face of British film; A Colour Box by Len Lye (1935); Hitchcock (2012); The Splendour of George Stevens’ Giant (1956).


This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.