Monday, 5 February 2018

Book Review: The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

A group of religious pilgrims embark to the Loney, an isolated and stormy coastline located a few hours away from London in England, with the intention of visiting a shrine and curing Hanny, a mute teenage boy who suffers from severe learning disabilities.

"Its walls had never contained a family. No one had ever laughed there."

I've been dreading writing this review simply because I don't know what to say. It's a strange book, if someone asked me to give them a rundown of the plot it really wouldn't take very long and I'm not even sure how I'd go about explaining it. So, as I've described in the brief synopsis, a deeply religious family embark on a pilgrimage to the Loney, a bleak place off the coast of England, along with their parish priest, where they are seeking help for Hanny, who is mute. The story is really about Hanny and his brother, who is the unnamed narrator. Their relationship, and how they communicate, is one of the best things about the book. Hurley seems to have a skill for intricate character development, as the members of the party who go to the Loney are quite distinct and easily recognisable. So, that's one huge positive.

Another positive is the beauty of Hurley's writing. His descriptions of this stormy, wild landscape are breathtaking at times and really accentuate the gothic feel of this novel.  The desolate landscape is chilling and there's a real sinister undertone that makes you feel slightly on edge. Hurley evokes an incredibly gloomy atmosphere within these pages and it's easy to get swept up in the tension between these characters at times.

Now... for the weak parts. When I started this book, I was loving the slow build-up, it was so beautifully layered and I was so intrigued as to where this was going to go. And then... I just feel like it never really went anywhere. This devastates me because this book had SO much potential. The writing is stunning, the setting is well-crafted, the characters are believable, and yet... the plot itself just falls flat on its face. The ending was semi-interesting, but it just wasn't enough to save it for me.

Just as a warning, The Loney is quite heavy on religious themes - this wasn't an issue for me, but I know some readers might be put off by this. It's not religious in a preachy way or anything, but a lot of the characters are devout Catholics and the storyline itself heavily revolves around some of the Catholic traditions over the Easter period.

So I guess I'm pretty disappointed. I was hoping this would be a gloomy, atmospheric read, and it was to a degree, but I need more than that. Unfortunately this only gets 2 and a half stars out of 5!


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