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Book Review: Starve Acre

Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Starve Acre is the story of Richard and Juliette who moved into Richard’s family home to bring up their young son, Ewan, only for him to die suddenly at the age of five. The novel begins after Ewan’s death, when Juliette is still struggling to cope, turning to the occult for answers. What happened to Ewan is presented as a series of recollections, juxtaposed with the strange things happening now.

There are the familiar tropes of folk horror, such as the rural setting, villagers who are unwilling to fully accept the newcomers, and strange local practices and folklore. Interestingly, the theme of a couple moving to a new rural home returns. Devil’s Day has the same theme, as does The Loney, although that move is temporary.

As with all Hurley’s books to-date, I loved the detailed nature description, the familiar sense of place, and the way he drip-feeds hints and tidbits from the start, maintaining the suspense and making the reader work to fill in the gaps. The final three sentences of the novel were unexpected, powerful, and shocking.

I was a little disappointed by the length of this book. It seemed a lot shorter than The Loney and Devil’s Day, and was over too quickly. There were definitely opportunities to explore some of the themes in more depth, but to criticise a novel for what it doesn’t contain is extremely unfair, so I will put this disappointment down to my own greed for Hurley’s words.

Definitely recommended. Preferably, you should read it alone, in a big old house. It should also be snowing outside.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: Devil’s Day

Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Devil’s Day is another masterpiece of folk horror fiction from Andrew Michael Hurley. Boiling the plot down to a single sentence, it’s the story of a man and his wife who return to his family farm for a funeral, and help with preparations for an annual festival in advance of bringing their sheep down from the moors for winter.

There’s much more to it than that, including some sub-plots, and the usual folk horror tropes of superstition, tradition, a rural setting, breath-taking nature description, and a cast of expertly drawn characters to act out the story.

There is nothing I disliked about this book, and I count it as one of the finest I have ever read. For me, it resonates particularly strongly because I grew up not far from the area in which it’s set, and my own novel, A Different Path, is set in the same area, a few miles east.

Just superb.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Loney

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney is a novel about two brothers who make a pilgrimage from London to the stretch of Lancashire coast that sits between the Lune and Wyre estuaries, known as the Loney. There, over the Easter period, they stay in a big old house with their parents, their parish priest, and some of their fellow parishioners. The bulk of the novel is set in the 1970s, but it begins and ends in the present day.

The above paragraph sums up what the book is about, but it doesn’t come close to doing it justice. This is one of the most beautifully written novels I have ever read, with stunning scene setting passages and haunting, eerie narration.

I grew up a catholic in East Lancashire during the 1970s and 1980s, so I can relate to many of the elements in the story. I can also relate to the attitudes of the locals as they are shaped by Hurley. The rural north has changed considerably nowadays, but back then, it was very much as he describes.

There is not a single thing I disliked about this novel. If I were to be nit-picky, I might say it wasn’t clear when it was set until the very end when the protagonist mentions the 1970s, although I personally guessed the time period.

Highly recommended for fans of the Folk Horror genre, but also for those who love to read novels that are abundant with stunning descriptions of nature.

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