Last Christmas I asked for and received a copy of The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley. This book was the 2015 Costa first novel winner. The other thing that interested me about the book is it was originally published through an independent publisher.
As a writer trying to achieve success, I was curious to read and maybe see if there was some kind of winning formula to writing a book that could be taken on by a big publisher and then go on to win awards.
The first few pages are taken up with positive reviews and praise from the likes of Stephen King, SFX Magazine and The Guardian.
Maybe that’s why I was expecting great things and possibly even some kind of inspiration for what I could do in my own writing to achieve success. I have to admit I was a little disappointed. For me, the first 100 pages contained very little plot or action, rather than being suspenseful or building up tension as some reviewers on Goodreads stated. Obviously Stephen King knows what he’s doing with his own writing and his review inside the book states that this is an amazing piece of fiction.
I just didn’t think the same way. It was readable and I didn’t have to force myself too much to keep on reading like I had to with a few of the self-published books I had tried to get through before reading The Loney, but it didn’t excite me. I’ve read books that I know I’ve enjoyed because I’ve looked forward to reading more. This wasn’t like that for me. I thought there was a lot of religion and that bored me in places. I can see the author either knows a lot about the subject or did a lot of research. The only thing I can really take from it is research is important because it was convincing. It wasn’t of interest to me though.
I was also confused by the ending and wasn’t sure what had even happened. That could just be me. Maybe I prefer a simpler read. I think: whether you write something clever or more basic, there’s a market for both. As for gaining recognition and winning awards it’s probably more complex than that. There’s no guaranteed winning formula. There might be things that make a book more likely to win an award, but it depends if you want to write something you choose and enjoy writing or try to copy books that have been successful, but you might not enjoy writing as much.
I’d still recommend the book, especially to other writers just to have a read and see what they think.
The blurb for The Loney is
Two brothers. One mute, the other his lifelong protector.
Year after year, their family visits the same sacred shrine on a desolate strip of coastline known as the Loney, in desperate hope of a cure.
In the long hours of waiting, the boys are left alone. And 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.