Suffer Little Children – by Penny Jones – Book Review


Hi, fellow 9th circle dwellers. After the amount of praise Goat Leader has piled onto the ‘Shadows’ collection from Black Shuck Books, I decided I’d go ahead and give one of them a try. Suffer Little Children was recommended to me because apparently, this short story collection is quite savage in its subject matter.

I was not disappointed.

Beneath Still Waters: This is a haunting, shocking, depressing story about how parenthood could affect a person, and a couple. For a short story, the turns this takes is actually pretty impressive, on account of the short time in which the author had to weave this tale. It’s also extremely honest – not that everyone’s experience of having children is like this, but there are elements of this story that most shy away from. I admire Penny Jones for what she wrote here.

The Changeling: Once again, the possible horror that comes with children is illuminated here. This is a great story. I thought I knew what was happening but when it ended, I was saying to myself “wait a minute HANG ON WAIT!’ I’m still unsure. If there’s one thing I respect in a writer, it’s the ability to so thoroughly confuse me without being frustrating at all. I was most entertained.

Swansong: This is about a boy who gets a stupid baby brother instead of the puppy he wanted. The less said about this one, the better. It’s horrible. *Grins maniacally*

Swimming Out to Sea: This is about feeling lost, and was very relatable. I have to say, this is my least favourite in the collection because it feels like it doesn’t really fit. If I’m not mistaken, this is the one story in the pack that’s a reprint, and wasn’t written with the overall theme in mind, so perhaps that’s why. It’s not a bad story but I found the change in tone a bit jarring.

It’s Not Just How Beautiful They Are: The less said about this one, the better, but only because ruining any of it would be a crime. It’s about someone that doesn’t fit in at school. Sick sick sickity sick. What a great story.

Waxing: This is potentially the most horrible story of all. It explores the effects of abuse in a way that just… it’s… well, look. There’s abuse the way it’s portrayed by popular media, and then there’s actual exploration of the subject matter, with nuance and complexity, and this story is definitely the latter. It’s horrific to read, but again, like the first story, approaches the topic with a real sincerity that a lot of other things I read is lacking in.

Overall, a very strong collection – though not for people who might be especially sensitive when it comes to children being harmed. That’s probably why this book was given to me for review – I’m completely insensitive to everything, apparently. Penny Jones is very good at crafting short stories that punch you straight in the face.

If you’d like to be mildly traumatised by your own copy, or look up the author, the links are below:



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