Review - THE LONEY, Andrew Michael Hurley
Claustrophobic, atmospheric, dark and insular, THE LONEY is part psychological thriller, part literary character study, and one of those books that is hard to categorise.
The central narrator of the book is a young boy who is forced, yearly, to endure an odd religious pilgrimage to a windswept, damp, dismal and isolated location in England with his deeply religious Catholic parents, friends and family priest. Part of the reason for his family's quest is to seek a cure from God for their intellectually handicapped eldest son, and the choice of this location with its bleak and forbidding atmosphere; menacing locals and hefty doses of sinister folklore seems perfectly apt given that the reoccurring themes of THE LONEY are obsession, mania, unease and adults with a decidedly loose grasp of reality.
It's the level of religious mania exhibited particularly by the boys mother (or Mummer as she's referred to in the book) that gives some of this story a certain sense of inevitability, supported as it is by the slightly sinister figure of the local priest. To be fair that could be as a result of recent revelations about the Catholic church in particular, which frankly made for a particularly uncomfortable series of reader expectations. It also combines aspects of the supernatural, and whilst the writing is wonderfully atmospheric, for some reason everything just sort of trickled to a somewhat disappointing ending. That combined with a slightly messy plot, it was hard to rid myself of the feeling that everything including the kitchen sink had been thrown into the mix at points, and the characters, and the reader left to work out what stuck or didn't. The plot somehow didn't quite hold up to the strong sense of place, and general foreboding which means it perhaps didn't work as well for this reader as it could have. But I'd not be surprised to find that THE LONEY is one of those books that some readers absolutely love.
If it had another name, I never knew, but the locals called it the Loney - that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune where Hanny and I went every Easter time with Mummer, Farther, Mr and Mrs Belderboss and Father Wilfred, the parish priest.
It was impossible to truly know the place. It changed with each influx and retreat, and the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they could escape its insidious currents. No one ever went near the water. No one apart from us, that is.
I suppose I always knew that what happened there wouldn't stay hidden for ever, no matter how much I wanted it to. No matter how hard I tried to forget...