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This is a real masterpiece of dark English gothic set on the bleak and isolated Lancashire coast. Everything about this story is slightly unhinged, including a teenage boy looking after his older mute and child like sibling, a pregnant child woman and a fierce and dominant mother berating her husband for coughing and the priest for not leading his flock according to her manical expectations. Listen out for the albino cat with eyes that look like they have been marinated in blood, the woman wearing a liver coloured dress and the bricked up room contains only a bed and children’s toys. From this alone you will glean that the author has an immensely visceral talent for describing the world.This is filled with a cast of oddball characters and enough shadowy damp intensity to keep you shivering throughout the winter months. I love this genre but it is very hard to find it done well. Rest assured that in this case the author succeeds magnificently in conjuring up a genuinely disturbing story that will surely become a classic on a par with M R James and H P Lovecraft. Full credit should go to the brilliant narrator who delivers a range of accents with great aplomb. This is a highly recommended listen an I urge you to choose this unabridged version. You really don’t want to miss a thing.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Every now and then an exceptional first novel like The Loney comes along. It's not easy to classify - it pares sliver after sliver from a psychological onion of a plot; it has elements of gothic creepiness, even horror; it gets inside a fanatical and unhappy group of people expecting a miracle from God... Binding everything together is the eerie, bleak sweep of 'wild and useless' coastline in north-east England with its treacherous tides which consume all in their path
The main events are set in 1976 when the middle-aged narrator Tonto was 15. His parents are part of an annual pilgrimage to a shrine accompanied by their Catholic priest who is replacing the much-loved Father who very recently died in mysterious circumstances. The group is riddled with tension and dissension, driven by Tonto's fervent mother who believes if they can but reach the shrine, God will cure the mutism of Hanny,Tonto's disturbed older brother. Tonto is Hanny's keeper and speaker, devoting his life to protecting him from himself and others, a role which becomes increasingly and frighteningly necessary as the unsettling tentacles of menace tighten their grip as the story progresses.
To describe further would be to give away the increasingly disturbing strands of the story, but what makes it satisfying is that the whole is soundly rooted in reality. The other striking element is the author's superb writing: eyes are 'glassy like the underside of a slug'; a 'squabble of little brown birds' disturb the sky; there are 'cochineal tears' on a figure of Christ'. There's humour too: the Priest relishing the food saying, 'There's no better way of serving the Lord than feeding a Priest!' or a priest being like a fish, 'immersion for life'.
The narration is excellent, capturing a whole raft of different characters, accents and changing moods.
The only criticism I have is not to do with the writer or the narrator, but with the flashback and flash-forward episodes which make up the whole. Because when listening you cannot see the breaks in the text which tell you the time sequence has changed, it is sometimes confusing to realise you as listener have been catapulted forward or backward. Some kind of indication to the listener was needed.
I recommend this one whole-heartedly!
12 of 14 people found this review helpful