#HorrorShort – The Withering by Oliver Phipps

The blurb reads,

Victoria Bartlett is an educated woman from a prominent British family. The year is 1900 and as she travels on an aged steamship to the harsh environment of Egypt, she feels confident and secure in herself.

Fate however, will not allow Victoria a gentle passage. Ripping the strands of well being from her, it will ultimately cast her essence upon the hard stones of ancient alchemy and desperation. It is in this place that she finds what she perhaps has been seeking all along…; answers.

the withering


A see saw opinion of the book. Wondering what to write for its review! I liked it and also felt it was a little short of what I would have wanted to have read.

This was a great short to read. I checked the book out no Goodreads and I was surprised that it was 54 pages only. That made me really excited to check out the story. I feel that short story authors inherently challenge themselves more than others when they stick to a lesser word count. Therein lies the pressure to build a great story and write without all the unnecessary details.

And this book was a great one at that. I think the genre is a mash of Horror and Historical. In terms of the character, Victoria, it felt like it was a coming-of-age because she matured from the start of the book.

So Victoria is a snob. You can make it out from the name, a typical aristocratic British name. She’s one of those who looks down on people who aren’t as knowledgeable as her or those who don’t know too many things.

The beginning of the book, in my opinion, falters while trying to build up Victoria’s character. You grow to dislike her so much that you really don’t have any empathy for her when fate throws her into the sea (quite literally). This is the part I’d have liked changed a little. I’d have liked to know about Victoria’s life back in England and what made her leave.

The book picks up brilliantly in the second half. Victoria is a typical woman from the 1900s. Taught to be haughty and affected, who doesn’t really have much skills. It grated on me that she couldn’t deal with what was happening, but I suppose I have to give her the benefit of the doubt. I’m not sure I’d have survived much if I was her.

Some parts in the second half were so thrilling. At one point, the narrative was so crisp and thrilling that I was scared, even though I was reading it in broad daylight.

Victoria’s answers to me, felt a little pretentious, but that is primarily because I did not know about her life in the first half. I only knew about her “Withering”in the second half. And that, is where I feel the book lacks. A brilliant brilliant horror short, let down by imperfect planning in the first part.

Victoria is not a memorable character. Her snobbish and high handed manner certainly is. You end up feeling that she deserves what happened and her unraveling was to come in due time. What you cannot predict is that the book is her unraveling. That’s where the genius lies.

And that’s where the 3.5 stars to this book come from. The sheer unpredictability of the book, and the slight bit of dementia we see in the end.


My Rating: 3.5/5

3.5 starts


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