Spring drowned the Loney.
Day after day, the rain swept in off the sea in huge, vaporous curtains that licked Coldbarrow from view and then moved inland to drench the cattle fields. The beach turned to brown sludge and the dunes ruptured and sometimes crumbled altogether, so that the sea and the marsh water united in vast lakes, undulating with the carcasses of uprooted trees and bright red carrageen ripped from the sea bed.
Those were the worst days; the days of mist and driving rain, when Moorings dripped and leaked and the air was permanently damp. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do but wait for the weather to change. And sitting by the bay window of the front room watching the water flowing down the fields and the lanes, listening to the rooks barking in the cold woods, filled me with a sense of futility that I can remember even now.
They say never judge a book by its cover but this one grabbed my attention from the moment I laid eyes on it. Back in 2015, it won a Costa Book Award for Best Debut Novel. It then won the British Book Industry award for Best Debut Fiction and Book Of The Year.
The Loney‘s first few pages were filled with glowing recommendations from esteemed newspapers and fellow authors. This was a book that I desperately hoped would live up to it’s hype.
The story tells us about a devout Christian community who set out on a annual pilgrimage to the Loney every year. These Christians are fanatical in their devotion to their God and their priest. Each year, the focus of the trip is to pray for Hanny, the handicapped brother of the novel’s narrator. Each year however, their prayers are not answered and desperation continues to grow.
On one such pilgrimage, the strict and formidable parish priest Fr. Wilfred gets an awful fright. He never fully regains his sense of self and eventually dies in unusual circumstances. The small group of parishioners spend many years away from the Loney until Fr. Bernard takes over and revives the annual trip.
Needless to say, the pilgrimage once again begins to take a turn for the worse when the parishioners once more find themselves at the centre of several strange and unexplained events. Loud noises are heard at night and some local men seem intent on intimidating those staying at Moorings for the duration of their trip. As events come to a head, the mystery of Fr. Wilfred’s demise and the strange behaviour of the locals becomes clear.
Reading The Loney reminded me very much of the cult classic film The Wicker Man. You never can put your finger on it but there is a constant sense of unease throughout the story. Part of this is due to the events and how the characters interact, but the setting seems to dominate everything with its gloomy sense of foreboding.
Beautifully atmospheric and original, I enjoyed The Loney from start to finish and I am glad to say that it lived up to its high expectations!
Would I recommend this book to a friend?
Yes, I am glad that I bought my own hard copy of this and I can’t wait to pass it on. This is an original story with just the right amount of chill. The tense atmosphere keeps the reader going right up to the last page and then stays with you beyond the cover.
- I read this book over a couple of nice, cosy rainy days. This would be an ideal Halloween read when the nights are darker and longer!
- The Loney is classed a member of the ‘folk horror’ genre. I was not aware that such a genre existed. Upon reflection I suppose that The Wicker Man and The Blair Witch Project would fit into this category in terms of films. As for my most recent reads, Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale could be said to contain some elements of Russian folk horror.
- For more information on folk horror, read this interesting article: ‘Cults, human sacrifice and pagan sex: how folk horror is flowering again in Brexit Britain’