The Wishing Game

milkboys Books & Magazines 2 Comments

The Wishing Game, written by Patrick Redmond is a psychological horror story about shy 14-year-old Jonathan Palmer becoming friends with the fearless Richard Rokeby in the systematically oppressive boarding school of Kirkston Abbey, realising too late how dangerous his new friend might be. As Jonathan falls further under Richard’s possessive control, the two boys find a Ouija board and begin a game that reaps deadly results.

The framing of the story helps to set up the plot. First there is a letter directed to a newspaper deriding the insinuation that the public school system was to blame for the events at Kirkston Abbey. This leads into the prologue where a man meets with a journalist to tell him the truth about the mysterious events of December 9, 1954 and the circumstances that led up to the final tragedy.

So begins the friendship of Jonathan and Richard, and the isolated codependency that the relationship turns into. Many characters become involved as Richard identifies those who he believes pose a threat to his connection with Jonathan, and the wishing game that they have started makes all of them victims of his rage.

As the book takes place in the ’50s at a Norfolk public school for rich, young boys, there is quite a bit of casual prejudice against any exhibiting the non-hegemonic race and sexuality of the time and location, as well as certain gender roles that were expected to be fulfilled.

Redmond depicts his characters as very flawed individuals, not just in Richard’s madness, but in Jonathan’s insecurities, the relationship between the Perriman twins (strained due to familial expectations, but still extremely loving and close), the unhappy marriage of the Latin professor and his wife who loves him but blackmails him into staying with her, etc. In these flaws he makes them unhappy, but believable. None of the characters are really able to fit into a black and white setting of “good” or “evil” after their complete stories are told.

The most eerie thing about this book is that the reader is never really 100% sure that there is anything supernatural going on for the first few parts of the novel. There are heavy insinuations of it, but information to blackmail and psychologically torture people can be found in many different ways beyond summoning dark spirits. It is only at the climax of the book that there is a confirmation, and what a confirmation it is. The scares in this book are as good and subtle as its homoerotic undertones.

Comments 2

  1. Looks like a nice dark thriller, but I hate these cheap fantasy tricks such as ouija boards, it usually kills whatever good there is in the book or movie, moving the plot from a plausible, creative and interesting psychological story to an improbable world of the supernatural for five-year-olds where the most improbable things go unexplained for some reason… Am I being too harsh? ;)

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