The Loney – Andrew Michael Hurley

Ok, so my recent book haul is very ‘grip-lit’* focused; lots of mystery, horror, thriller, crime-y type reads, and this is the one that started it. I picked this one off the shelf first, primarily (and I’m trying to be honest here) because I felt I ought to get more award winners into my repertoire. Having decided on The Loney, I’d picked a theme, and The Night Book, my current on-the-go The Passenger, and the slightly lighter That Girl From Nowhere followed. I’ll let you know what I think of the latter two when I finish them, and we know what I made of Mr Madeley’s offering!

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Oooh… creepy.

So. The Loney. It won the First Novel category of the Costa Book Awards in 2015, and the British Book Industry Awards ‘Book of the Year’ this year(?)… so it seemed a pretty good bet for my mission. The premise sounded engaging – two brothers, the younger very much the carer for the older; a suitable grim, desolate location; a mysterious happening… and years later, a child’s body is found. Mystery mode, engage! The narrator is the younger brother, who never gets a name as he relates both the story of what is happening now, and what happened decades ago when he and his brother were children.

So a good start, right? But here’s the thing.

I don’t… I don’t get it?

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I do not enjoy feeling dumb, but I feel like I must have missed something here that the whole judging panel for two different awarding bodies got. Sure, the story kept me engaged – I wanted to know what happened when they were kids, and how they ended up here, but I found the ending to be a bit of an anticlimax, tbh, and I just wasn’t creeped out by any of it. Like, at all.

So if not the story, the quality of the writing, maybe? Well… nope? I didn’t find the writing to be particularly noteworthy – don’t get me wrong, it was good, and I probably couldn’t do better, but it wasn’t one of those (like Austen, or Tolkein, or Gaiman) where the author’s prose can just make you catch your breath and say “wow that’s beautiful!”.

Hurley makes use of the unreliable narrator technique (I love this, and wrote about it in my review of The Girl on the Train), but that doesn’t come out until much later on in the book and IMO is a bit too subtle. I liked the way I turned the last page and only then questioned the reliability of everything I’d read, but that was drowned out by my overwhelming reaction of “Huh?!”. I think, on reflection, that for me Hurley goes a bit overboard on the ‘less is more’ technique; you know how the book is always better than the film because imagination is more powerful than sight? In creepy factor, less is more is a great rule, because our imaginations as readers fill in the gaps, but after putting down The Loney there were just too many gaps and questions for me to have filled as I was reading. I still don’t really know what happened, and I want to know much more about the adult brothers, and what happened to the narrator after what happened at the Loney.

So, I guess this award-winner just isn’t for me, which is cool. Have you read it? What did you think? Does anyone have any insight that might help me get this?

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*I learned this phrase today, while chatting to a recruiter – great, huh?! Jargon-y but still obvious what it means; catchy but not as judgey as ‘chick-lit’. Every day’s a school day!
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