"The Changeling" is of the finest of Robin Jenkins' novels and demonstrates his familiar themes of the dichotomy between ideology and brutal reality, altruism and disillusionment, innocence and experience. The story centres around two main characters, Charlie Forbes, a middle-aged schoolteacher, with high ideals and a headstrong adherence to liberal moral values, and his pupil, Tom Curdie, an intelligent but damaged 13 year-old from a Glasgow slum, on probation for petty theft. Forbes believes he can redeem the boy and determines, despite warnings from his more cynical colleagues, to take him on the family holiday, to Towellan, a seaside beauty spot. But gradually, Forbes' high principles fall apart, as the very presence of Tom seems to shatter the coherence of his family life, his values and his own humanity, triggering the underlying cruelty within himself and his "respectable" family. Just as Tom slowly begins to trust his mentor, he himself is demonised and becomes "The Changeling" of the title. This is a short, but brilliant novel and belies it's original publication date of 1958, because the themes that Jenkins is exploring here are timeless and are immediately familiar to the experience of the modern reader. The author has a gift for capturing the painful isolation that often accompanies the childhood experience of those who do not, for whatever reason, feel part of society. His skill in writing totally convincing dialogue that lives and breathes as you read is unique. The description of Tom's home life with his alcoholic mother and her partner are genuinely shocking yet imbued with terrible pathos. It is a genuinely tragic story.