Book Review: The Loney

loneyThere were stories, naturally, of it being haunted. A witch had once lived there, they said; a beautiful woman called Elizabeth Percy who lured sailors onto the rocks, and who remained there in some form or other even though they’d hanged her in the old bell tower next to the house. ~ pg. 40

(MILD SPOILERS)

It’s always an inspiration to see some local writing talent, and Andrew Michael Hurley’s gothic novel ‘The Loney’ is a great example of what the writers of good old P-Town have to offer. As a lover of all things dark and sinister, I was immediately drawn to this book on one of my excursions to Waterstones in which I convince myself I’m only going to have a look and come out with at least three new books. But this is one of those reads that makes it worth the instant drop in my paycheck.

The biggest triumph of this book is that it contains so many of the classic tropes of gothic horror – the supernatural, the pathetic fallacy, the religious overtones, the isolation, the setting of a creepy old house in a bleak landscape – that it ran the risk of being one huge cliche. And yet it isn’t. All of these elements have been used so effectively that they read as believable and horrifying. Nothing is overplayed. One scene that springs to mind is Mummer forcing her mentally disabled son to throw up as he was supposed to be fasting by forcing his own fingers down his throat; Hurley describes the incident in less words than I do, and this matter-of-fact description makes it all the more shocking. Clearly, this scene is nothing new to the narrator, and the casual treatment of their mother’s abuse is harrowing.

The fact that Hurley’s writing deals in subtleties makes it a thrilling and yet frustrating read. Not much is ever resolved or answered. This isn’t necessarily a criticism – just a warning to anyone planning to read it that you will be thinking about the ending forever. Hurley splits it in two, leaving the second half until after an interlude; a pounding buildup is suddenly cut off, and it is like how silence rings when loud music stops. The disjointed structure is a clever choice, as it reflects the narrators own confusion, and the difficulty he has in facing what happened. The whole book has an undertone of dread, as if he is putting off telling the reader what happened; certainly, he won’t try to explain it.

Overall, a hugely enjoyable plot presented in a refreshing and engaging way – I honestly can’t think of anything I would change. The jumping about to different times can be a bit jarring sometimes, but that’s the entire point of them – it is something you have to concentrate on reading, but it is very rewarding if you do.

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