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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Friday, 9 November 2018

"The Loney" by Andrew Michael Hurley

The Loney is a bleak place on the Cumbrian coast where the tides can roar in and drown the unsuspecting. And in an isolated farmhouse three couples, two children and their parish priest arrive for a Catholic retreat with the ambition of effecting a miraculous cure for one of the boys who is mute. But their belief in God is challenged by mysterious things that begin to happen and by sinister men who seem to want to chase them away. And what is happening in the old house on the island that the tides cut off.

The Sunday Times called it an "excursion into terror". I wasn't in the least terrified. The most interesting part of the book is the character of the narrator's mother who is an obssessive compulsive religious; for whom religion is ritual and every ritual has to be performed correctly in every detail if there is to be any chance that God will perform a miracle and cure her mute, retarded son. In this she battles everyone including the gentle forgiving parish priest who is, in her eyes, no adequate replacement for the cruel disciplinarian he replaced. This is a novel in which religion is dissected: the narrow cruelties of small-minded ritualists versus forgiving generosity; the derelict customs of the sterile good versus the evil fecundity of magic.

The book is beautifully written. The descriptions are lovely and the evocation of the landscape masterful. The characters are depicted perfectly. But the plot is a textbook in hinting. Who are the sinister local men and what do they want? Why has a room in the house been sealed off and what is in it? Who is the very pregnant schoolgirl in the Daimler? Why is there a gun under the floorboards? And how did Father Wilfred die?

Some wonderful moments:

  • "The emerging springtime, that, when it came, was hardly a spring at all ... more the soggy afterbirth of winter." (C 2)
  • "I'd never seen a man be so unkind to his own body." (C 2)
  • "Pity is the only thing a drunk has in abundance." (C 2)
  • "The specious grin of a teacher who wishes to punish and befriend in equal measure and ends up doing neither."(C 3)
  • "All along the beach ... the sea had left its offerings like a cat trying to curry favour with its owner."(C 8)
  • "It was an albino with eyes that looked as if they had been marinated in blood." (C 10)
  • "Hell was a place ruled by the logic of children." (C 12)
  • "He was the type that, given a different time and place, would have joined the Hitler Youth like a shot or been on the front row at a public hanging." (C 14)
  • "Death was a poor draughtsman and had rendered his likeness just a little off-centre, giving him the look of someone who was almost familiar but lacking the something that made him so." (C 23)
  • "Praying's like tuning a radio ... You have to be on the right frequency, otherwise all God hears is static." (C 23)

A perfectly structured book with great characterisation and an evocative setting. A page-turner. November 2018; 360 pages

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