This is my first completed read for the R.I.P. Challenge XI: Peril the Second. I first heard about this title months ago on the Radio 4 podcast Open Book in an interview with the author and it stuck with me enough for me to recall it when I was browsing the new books section at my local library. Open book classified this book at “Gothic” and I would agree with that. The book is never really terrifying and yet the author managed to maintain an eerie atmosphere all the way through.
The Loney is one of those books where the reader may not be quite sure what exactly happened when they reach the end of it, which I know can be frustrating for some. However, I like it when this type of story is done well; I like having room for interpretation. And I think the author got the balance right most of the time. I don’t read a lot of this type of book, but it reminded me a bit of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House in in terms of keeping the reader off-kilter.
On the surface, the story is about an ultra-religious Catholic family in the mid-1970’s and their quest to heal their disabled son via miracle, whatever that takes. The book is narrated by the younger son as an adult looking back in hindsight upon events which took place when he was a teenager. The fact that the narrator is never named is something I only noticed after finishing the book. The unnamed narrator serves as a caretaker for his older brother and has a complex and difficult relationship with his overbearing mother. Most of the story takes place in an isolated stretch of coast in England where the narrator has come on a pilgrimage with his family, their priest and other church members.
But dig a little deeper and the reader will find that The Loney is also about the difference (if any) between superstition and religion and the potential harm of either, in particular when wielded upon young, impressionable minds. And that is where perhaps the real horror lies.