The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2015 and the British Book Industry Award's Book of the Year (2016).

I was keen to read The Loney, having heard quite a lot about it and I am glad to say that I was not disappointed. It is difficult to pin down into a genre as it has elements of gothic horror but also takes a wry look at ritual and prayer within organised religion and faith. You view the strange happenings in flashback by Tonto who from the vantage of middle age recalls when he was a teenager. A house at Coldbarrow has tumbled down the cliffs and revealed the body of a baby and this sparks off his memories of one particular Easter thirty years before.

    Set mainly in the 1970's, the story centres on an annual pilgrimage which is being made by a family and their slightly odd friends along with their Catholic priest. Of the two teenage sons of the party, Hanny has some form of muteness and possible learning difficulties but this is never spelt out. His mother is desperate that the visit to a nearby shrine will 'cure' him. Tonto is the younger of the two boys but takes on the role of the elder. We also meet other mysterious residents and visitors to the locality and encounter strange happenings which add to the mounting feeling that there are weird and terrifying goings on. 

    The Loney is set in an isolated area on the Lancashire coast and this absolutely dominates the book for me. There are evocative and haunting descriptions of the locality and tiny details add to the atmosphere and suspense. It is a wild and lonely place, cut off from mainstream life and where you feel the power of the elements to destroy and isolate. You feel that you have stepped through an invisible gateway into a place where the normal rules might not apply.

    Alongside the events on the pilgrimage, we are taken into the previous priest's story and see the disappointment of Tonto's mother in the new priest, Father Bernard, who takes a different approach to the rituals of the Catholic faith. We also follow how the family regard Hanny's condition and the effect it has on the younger brother, Tonto.  

    This is a book which leaves the reader free to interpret the events and draw their own conclusions as to what has happened. You build up an hypothesis in your mind and are drawn into the story. There is much that is implied and you are left alone with your imagination to interpret the events.

In short: an unsettling, disturbing but marvellously well written story . 

Thanks to the publishers, John Murray Press who sent me an e-copy of the book via NetGalley.







 

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