Doug's Reviews > The Loney

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
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Sep 30, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: weird

The Loney is a lovely book, in its prose and its plotting and its primary characters and even its darkness, which is dished out slowly and carefully, only truly bubbling to the surface in three or four scenes—though two of those are dark enough to catch on the tongue. At its core, it is a Coming of Age novel, one told in retrospect by the now-adult narrator remembering back to two key points in his life: a specific Easter holiday pilgrimage and his time as an altar boy, events which intertwine in theme and side-elements of plot. Hurley writes his protagonist—or you might say, has his protagonist write of himself—in much the way that any of us would look back at our teenage'd self: innocent but with hindsight that may not have been possible at the time. This leads to a dual-faced book, on one-hand about the very real horror right behind the wall of events and on the other about the way a person raised in a close-faith household deals with issues such as a brother with with unspecified mental disabilities or a mother coming to terms with a new priest or secrets you keep to protect the miracle that made your family feel whole.

The core plotline is a trip to Moorings, a house in Lancashire, near a fairly desolate but occasionally lovely beach known as The Loney. The church group had taken annual trips with the aged Father Wilfred, their chief goal being a visit to a local shrine said to have healing powers so that Hanny, Smith's brother, can be cured of his afflictions. For Esther, Smith's mom, generally described as "Mummy" in the book, the curing of Hanny—and the eventual priesthood of Smith—are her two primary goals, above and outside the wishes of either of her sons. As children, Smith and Hanny find the place to be both boring but yet a blast, playing games on The Loney and seeing mostly the world as a toybox. One year, after Father Wilfred goes off on his own and comes back a changed man for reasons [not specified until later in the novel], the annual trips cease, a sense of darkness coloring them.

After Wilfred's death, a new priest comes in, Father Bernard, trying to find some fresh passion in the Church, and a chance for a pilgrimage is possible again, though things have changed. The Loney and the woods nearby seem darker, more ragged. Moorings is found to have a secret room used for unknown purposes. The locals are less friendly and things which could be pranks and could be something sinister occur. And the personal interaction of the group has been tainted. Esther finds Father Bernard a weak leader, someone unable to lead them on the perfect trip to cure her son. A young couple has joined to trip who do not quite flow along with the rest. An old couple, Father Wilfred's brother and sister-in-law, are still dealing with grief from losing kin. Perhaps worst of all, Hanny is growing into a man, larger and more unwieldy, still devoted to his brother but more and more at odds with his mother's machinations to cure him no matter what the cost.

By comparison, the flashbacks to the days as an altar-boy are tamer, mostly the last look at a Father Wilfred who has become different, passionate about the Church but darker with it, taking out his Dickensian Schoolmaster zeal on another young altar-boy, who tries but fails to live up to the standards set.

Things unravel more and more as Smith and Hanny become acquainted with a couple living in the old house Thessaly, across tidal paths from The Loney in Coldbarrow, and with a young ward, about their Hanny's own age, pregnant and beautiful. Something horrible is going on, the reader—and the adult Smith—knows, but the younger Smith and Hanny can only guess. A miracle is coming, and Father Wilfred's damnation is exposed, and Smith finds himself holding both secrets, lonely and cold, the younger brother who acted the older to the end. Tainted by knowing the cost of the affirmation, and never quite able to be whole, again.

It has been compared, by the publisher, to The Wicker Man, and that is only partially right. The handling of secrets is different between here and there, and the way it handles its new but old source of miracles. The Wicker Man is mostly one man's failure to see the truth, The Loney is a young boy's, and later a middle-aged man's, inability to handle it. In the end, The Loney is about a cost in a way that Wicker is not.

As I started out saying, this is a lovely book, darkness and all, but not one which is pulse pounding. The secrets are dark, one darker than the other, but the full shape of darkness does not come until the end, and it comes with the suggestion that we're all children playing at games of faith, while the world is unknowable.
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Quotes Doug Liked

Andrew Michael Hurley
“As a token bit of mysticism, the mason had fixed an Eye of God way up on the steeple, above the clock - an oval shape carved into a block of stone that I'd noticed on the old country churches Farther dragged us round at weekends. Yet at Saint Jude's, it seemed more like a sharp-eyed overseer of the factory floor, looking out for the workshy and the seditious.”
Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney


Reading Progress

September 30, 2014 – Started Reading
September 30, 2014 – Shelved
September 30, 2014 –
0.0% "The blurb says that it is in the tradition of Wicker Man. That's not quite right. Closer, maybe, to something like Wake Wood. But good. Really like it."
October 5, 2014 – Finished Reading
October 7, 2014 – Shelved as: weird

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LeAnne Outstanding summary of one incredible gothic debut.


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