With Lancashire’s wind-scorched coast as its setting, Hurley fuses faith, superstition and fear into a potent cocktail of family drenched in unsaid secrets and a constant, gnawing doubt that something strange and dangerous is afoot: it surprised none of us here to watch The Loney sail on to bag 2016’s Costa Book of the Year.
The Loney is an atmospheric story that gets increasingly eerie and uncomfortable as the story slowly progresses, developing into far more than a horror novel, but a story about religion, guilt, jealousy and sacrifice among other things. Hurley’s writing is remarkably observant in a way that’s both comedic and deeply sad, highlighting the differences in the group, including how they follow their faith, their relationship with God, and how open they are to change.
The Loney also happens to be a sensitive portrait of the relationship between the two brothers, an unnamed narrator nicknamed Tonto by Father Bernard and his mute brother Hanny. Both of whom have a unique way of looking at the world and the events going on around them. We grow to love these characters over the course of the story and when we revisit them both in middle age, the events that happened to them during their childhood become even more poignant.
“Outside, as well as in, Moorings felt like a place that had been repeatedly abandoned. A place that had failed.”
― Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney
The only downside I found with the story was the plot’s incredibly slow pace. There were a couple of moments once around mid-point of the story when I found myself wondering when the events were going to lead somewhere other than another awkward conversation or argument about what it is to be Catholic.
That being said, the way Hurley develops the atmosphere and the characters, you’re willing to keep investing in the hope that when the cards start to fall, the payoff will be worth the wait, which on the whole I’d say it was.