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Problem Child by Caradoc King

Problem Child

Biography / Autobiography   eBook Favourites   eBook Favourites   

RRP £16.99

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Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 19 May 2011.

A remarkable memoir, the inspiring account of a child's instinct for survival in a hostile world.

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Problem Child by Caradoc King

Adopted at eighteen months, Caradoc King was brought up in a large and growing family. His adoptive mother, a complex woman, was unable to bond with her newly adopted son and treated him with a harshness bordering on cruelty. At the age of six, he was sent to a boarding school run by two brilliantly eccentric brothers. But this happy time ended abruptly when his adoptive mother became a passionate Catholic and removed him from the school. From the age of eleven, Caradoc was shuttled from one school to the next, later failing to fulfil his mother's wish that he should join a seminary. When he was fifteen, he was informed that he had been adopted and, a year later, his parents ejected him from the family. Two years later, he scraped into Oxford and there, on his first day, he met Philip Pullman who was to become his first client when he set up as a literary agent. Thirty years later, Caradoc went in search of his natural family and began to make sense of the mystery of his two absent mothers.


PROBLEM CHILD is immensely engaging from the first page. I have to confess that the author is an old friend, but there are depths and shadows and mysteries in the lives of even our closest friends, and Caradoc King has illuminated his own difficult and complicated childhood in a way that I found both moving and revelatory. It took courage to tell this story, and an unusual degree of emotional intelligence too. Those qualities would have counted for little, though, if the story had been poorly told, but at every point it's clear and compelling. It's a most impressive book. Philip Pullman 'A fascinating memoir which balances devastating honesty, warmth and irony ... a strong and courageous piece of writing and it tells an extraordinary story
Helen Dunmore

Well, I
've read your book over the Christmas holiday and was surprised, disturbed and eventually exhilarated by your story. I knew of course that your early years had been unconventional and difficult, but I did not know quite how sad and complex those years had been: a sort of persistent obstacle course you had to get through. And you have come through it all triumphantly. All human relations, as you say, are mysterious - we are mysterious to others and often to ourselves. What, to my mind, is especially good about your story is your present attitude to the past, particularly your admission that your formative years were blighted and upsetting coupled with your determination not to be dominated by that sadness - indeed to decide that you actually learnt something of value about human nature from your adopted mother's dire, unimaginative and deeply troubled personality. That is impressive and I do sincerely congratulate you.

Michael Holroyd
'I devoured Problem Child, drawn in immediately by its addictive combination of little-boy-lost, aberrant motherhood and period detail of a peculiarly English Spartan lost age. It is a tale fluently told - one would expect nothing less from a man with King's background and training - but what will raise it above the competition is its compelling honesty and intense evocations of place. King makes his boyhood seem at once as full of arcane social detail as any costume drama yet as painful as fresh wounds, its trauma unsalved by nostalgia.

'Reading Caradoc's memoir, you can't help fizzing with rage and sorrow on his behalf. It is not so much the moments of cruelty that catch your throat as the long shadow they left on a bewildered child. Caradoc grew up desperate for affection, falling hopelessly in love with other boys at boarding school and attaching himself like a limpet to any happy family that happened to invite him home for half-term. It is testimony to his capacity for emotional survival that he grew up able to write about these appalling times without a hint of rancour. If anything, he is grateful to the rackety crew of schoolteachers and other people's mothers who gave him brief glimpses of what it felt like to be loved. Problem Child is an exhilarating read... one that has taken a lifetime to write

Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday 4 stars
'Far from being a misery memoir , the book is infused with a sense of yearning for a lost past. Beautifully written, it captures superbly the pleasure and pain of childhood

Ian Critchley, Sunday Times
'A compelling and courageous piece of writing that tells the extraordinary story of [Caradoc King's] own childhood and adolescence... Despite its painful subject matter, the book is shot through with King's warm, ironic sense of humour and an optimism that makes it in some ways quite exhilarating

Lisa O
'Kelly, Observer 'For a teenage boy to lose his mother is a tragedy. To lose two, as Caradoc King did, is barely comprehensible, and to survive, not just to tell the tale but to tell it with lucid generosity, is truly remarkable. This book tells a shocking story of the damage inflicted by respectable, well-meaning middle-class parents on a child; but it also testifies to that child's resilience and enduring capacity to love... with its touches of the Brothers Grimm, [it then] enters Evelyn Waugh territory

Anne Chisholm, Evening Standard
'The problem is less often the child that the parent. Caradoc King's misfortune was first to be abandoned by his birth mother and then adopted by a loveless woman who treated him cruelly as a problem child until he was again left to fend for himself at 16. That was the beginning of his new life as a student at Oxford and later as a successful literary agent. More than 30 years later King tracked down his natural mother soon before she died and re-established good relationships with all his siblings. The story ends happily, mostly because King presents himself as a happy adult who can recall his childhood with candour and compassion but without rancour

The Times
At university, we would pretend to be old buffers, having sherry before dinner

How We Met with Philip Pullman, Independent on Sunday 6
/3 'I WAS ERASED FROM FAMILY LIFE Some people enjoy secure and carefree childhoods. Others have it tougher - like Caradoc King. He tells Steven Russell about being jettisoned by his adoptive mother

3 page feature, East Anglian Daily Times 12

About the Author

Caradoc King

Caradoc King is at the helm at AP Watt, which is the longest established literary agency in the world. In the course of his 35 years as a literary agent he has worked with some of the biggest names in literature, such as Graham Swift, Helen Dunmore and Tony Parsons. Caradoc is a long time friend of Philip Pullman, who he met at Oxford and became his first client. Caradoc’s business acumen is legendary and he famously sold the film rights to The Horse Whisperer before first-time novelist Nicholas Evans had even finished writing the book.

Caradoc decided to write Problem Child after meeting his biological mother for the first time, an intensely emotional experience which he wished to record. Later he decided that he needed to explore his difficult and complex relationship with his adoptive mother.

Author photo © Johnny Ring

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd March 2011


Caradoc King

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Simon & Schuster Ltd


336 pages


Biography / Autobiography
eBook Favourites
eBook Favourites




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