Publisher: John Murray Publishers
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
“It had certainly been a wild end to the autumn.”
Two brothers. One mute, the other his life long protector.
Year after year, their family visits the same sacred shrine on a desolate strip of coastline known as the Loney, in desparate hope of a cure.
In the long hours of waiting, the boys are left alone. They cannot resist the causeway revealed with every turn of the treacherous tide, the old house they glimpse at its end…
Many years on, Hanny is a grown man no longer in need of his brother’s care.
But then the child’s body is found.
And the Loney always gives up its secrets, in the end.
Narrated by one of the two brothers mentioned in the blurb, this book was up and down in my expectations as it went along. To begin with, I didn’t expect it to be told in first person. Our narrator is Hanny’s ‘life long protector’ who we know mostly as Tonto, the nickname given to him by Father Bernard.
The book is also religion-heavy from beginning to end, and the narrative seems to focus more on religion than the ‘main’ plot.
Hanny is the mute brother, and we get to know him through the narrator. His character is the focus of the plot, and what drives it forward. Most of the characters are present in the book throughout:
Father Bernard: The priest who accompanies them on their pilgrimage to the Loney. He is the successor of Father Wilfred, the mysterious former priest who has recently passed away.
Mummer: She is Hanny and the narrator’s mother, actually called Esther Smith. Her character isn’t very likable, arguably because she is extremely religious to the point that she doesn’t accept Hanny for who he is, and wishes him to be cured by drinking holy water from the shrine at the Loney.
She also persists in comparing Father Bernard to Father Wilfred, emphasising that Father Wilfred was a better priest than Father Bernard is. Since the latter is the more likable character (he is friendly towards the narrator and accepting of Hanny) this tended to put me off Mummer.
Farther: Esther’s husband and father to Hanny and the narrator. His character is left to the sidelines, and he isn’t very significant to the narrative other than being one half of our main character’s parentage. He didn’t make an impact on me, and was most of the time in the shadow of his wife.
The rest of the characters either form the group joining the family on the pilgrimage, or are residents living at the Loney. All the characters being together at once did sometimes get confusing, and I wasn’t sure who each character was or why they were significant.
This plot had too much religion for my liking. It was apparent from the start that the family are religious, and that our narrator doesn’t believe in his religion as much as his mother would like.
Mummer is religious to the point that her life would lose meaning without it. She tells Father Bernard what he is supposed to do, when to do it and how. Everything needs to be done properly, and this is established early on, but carried through the rest of the book. Evetually I got bored of reading paragraphs focusing on religion, because it took up page space that I felt could have been spent revealing some of the more interesting areas of the plot.
The Loney itself is described in such detail that I can image what it is like to be there, and could imagine it clearly when reading. It did have an air of creepiness to it, and to some extent delivered in causing suspense. The best scenes were when Hanny and the narrator were alone together exploring the Loney near the beach.
Overall the plot is slow-moving, and on one hand I was waiting for them to go to the shrine (a scene which was underwhelming and would have been better earlier on), and on the other I wanted them to go back to the house at Coldbarrow, as these were the creepiest and most engaging scenes. I wanted to know more about Leonard, Else and the baby. But I felt the plot was restricted by only being told by Tonto’s perspective. We only get what he witnesses, as the novel is his re-telling of events. I felt that this left me with lots of unanswered questions.
I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but I felt that the ending could have been executed better. A whole chunk of the book could be cut out, and the scenes that made up the ending would have made for better reading had they been earlier on.
However, I feel that the ending is ambiguous, and also requires the reader to understand it rather than be told what happened. When I read books like this, I like to be told exactly what happened, and for that to shock me, but in this instance I was left lost and confused.
I still couldn’t tell you what happened, and that made the ending disappointing. The whole book was building up to a few pages of confusion. The narrative itself did grip me and keep me reading, and that would have been worth it if the ending had delivered the way I had expected it to.
However, the character’s are brilliant, and the book is written extremely well, with description that saves this book from being given 2/5 stars rather than 3!
Not creepy enough to be a horror, not enough suspense for a mystery, and not enough thrill for a thriller. I’m not sure where The Loney comes on the creepy scale, but for me the prospect of reading it and expecting it to be creepy was creepier than the actual book turned out to be.
Worth a read if you can tolerate religion-focused plots, but not worth a read if you want a satisfying and shocking ending.
Link to the book on Goodreads: