gothic

Scare Slowly, Then All At Once: Andrew Michael Hurley’s ‘The Loney’

the loney

IF IT HAD another name, I never knew, but the locals called it the Loney— that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune where Hanny and I went every Easter time with Mummer, Farther, Mr and Mrs Belderboss and Father Wilfred, the parish priest. It was our week of penitence and prayer in which we would make our confessions, visit Saint Anne’s shrine, and look for God in the emerging springtime, that, when it came, was hardly a spring at all; nothing so vibrant and effusive. It was more the soggy afterbirth of winter.

Dull and featureless it may have looked, but the Loney was a dangerous place. A wild and useless length of English coastline. A dead mouth of a bay that filled and emptied twice a day and made Coldbarrow— a desolate spit of land a mile off the coast— into an island. The tides could come in quicker than a horse could run and every year a few people drowned. Unlucky fishermen were blown off course and ran aground. Opportunist cocklepickers, ignorant of what they were dealing with, drove their trucks onto the sands at low tide and washed up weeks later with green faces and skin like lint.

The Loney, Andrew Michael Hurley

Everyone’s favorite YA romance taught us that falling in love is like falling asleep–you can do it slowly, then all at once. But you can do other things like that too. You can be scared slowly, then all at once. You can wade with a gothic novel through a thick and brambly slow-paced novel of hints and foreboding, and then find yourself, all at once, in the midst of something unspeakable, terrifying, and absolutely evil.

Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney is that sort of book, a trap that feels almost lazily set in its own preciseness, a book that will have you wondering where its slow crawl down a gloomy beach with a desperate family is leading. The pace is nearly nonexistent, the book is drowning in its own paranoia.

I think this book is making waves (most notably Sarah Perry’s Guardian review, claiming it a gothic masterpiece) because we don’t write or read thrillers this way anymore. We so often want them quick and dirty, easily consumable. We don’t want their sentences suffocating, their paces slow, their plots unclear and totally unnavigable. And yet, here is The Loney, a painful, detailed, drudging, and really, crystalline book. And it works.

The Loney on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

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