Convalescence by Maynard Sims
Welcome to a special Halloween edition of Saturday Shorts, where we feature short stories and novellas. Woo Hoo! Halloween! I LOVE Halloween! And for Halloween, we need a good ghost story!
Publisher’s Description: Who will protect the children?
Fourteen-year-old James has seen his family wiped out by tuberculosis in the England of the 1960s. When he is sent to the country to convalesce with his Uncle Thomas it seems a welcome respite. But his uncle is strange, and clearly has a dark secret. The huge house is secretive too, with whispers and cries in the night. Gradually James meets other children, some real, some apparently ghosts, but all of whom have been hurt by the uncle. Will James be next?
In an eerie novella of repressed depravity, Maynard Sims conjures nightmares from the fears of childhood.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
One of my favorite childhood books is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Convalescence starts out similar to that story — a young child survives a severe illness that kills his parents. He’s sent to live with a distant relative in a huge manor in the English countryside.
That is about where the similarity in the stories end. In Convalescence, James isn’t sure who to trust in this strange house, especially after meeting the ghost of a young boy who appears to be asking him for help.
Though there are sick and sad things hinted at in this novella, James and his friend, Amy, get to fight evil and win. That has to be self-esteem building for two young orphans alone in the world. Justice always feels good, I think, particularly justice for the dead. If you like traditional ghost stories and want to see the good guys win, you’ll be pleased with Convalescence.
I absolutely love this time of the year, and Halloween is definitely my favorite. I like horror stories anytime of the year but this season makes me crave them. I was excited to begin Convalescence by Maynard Sims. What could be scarier than a huge old mansion where you never can tell what will go bump in the night?
I loved the characters. They were well written and jumped off the page at you. I could feel James’s grief and worry. I loved how Amy presented sweet yet strong, and I knew that Mrs. Rogers was evil from the moment she stepped into the story. I loved the buildup of the story and the fun, scary shivers I would get down my back when I found out another creepy secret.
My disappointment can in the last quarter of the story. The author had did such a marvelous job creating the characters and the story that the quick rushed ending left me in a little bit of shock. I wish the author had taken more time to tie up all the loose end. I felt like we were slowly going up the hill to the climax of the story and once we reach the top, it dropped off like a cliff and the story ended. I felt the characters deserved more than that.
Overall, I would recommend Convalescence. It is a deliciously scary short story that makes Halloween extra fun. Just be prepared that while the ending does effectively answer many questions, it may leave you wanting more.
Though this book comes out just shortly after Halloween, it’s still worth picking up if you like ghost stories. Have a wonderful and safe Halloween!