A follow up to The Loney, this dark and atmospheric tale set on the grasslands of Lancashire brings mythology and folklore to the fore in a place where rural traditions are the law.
Every autumn, John Pentecost returns to the farm where he grew up to help gather the sheep down from the moors for the winter. Very little changes in the Endlands, but this year, his grandfather – the Gaffer – has died and John’s new wife, Katherine, is accompanying him for the first time.
Each year, the Gaffer would redraw the boundary lines of the village, with pen and paper, but also through the remembrance of tales and timeless communal rituals, which keep the sheep safe from the Devil. But as the farmers of the Endlands bury the Gaffer, and prepare to gather the sheep, they begin to wonder whether they’ve let the Devil in after all.
My reading experience:
A feast of vocabulary and imagery evoking a gothic ghost story about the myth of the Devil in a rural landscape. I knew from the start that I would be poring over lavish prose, thoughtful and insightful use of words and subsequently a slow unravelling of characters. This was going to be an exquisitely rich and satisfying read.
“It was the privilege of the dead to pass on with all their sins eaten away. The burden now rested with the living.”
John and Kat have returned to the Endlands to help to bring in the sheep from the moor now that the Gaffer (John’s grandfather) has died. Kat brings with her the promising news that she is pregnant, but although she effortlessly tries to fit in, she is still left out in the cold.
“Somewhere in the gloom, the river moves against the banks it cut in the storms we had early last month and winds away to the black mass of Sullom Wood. The air feels skinned.”
This tale of folklore cloaks the reader with a sense of the values and beliefs of the people of the Endlands, the atmospheric, raw ruggedness of the landscape and how the two are woven together through myths told over and over to each other. The story is about a younger generation returning to their roots, about old rivalries, mistrust, suspicion and how everyone actually does have the same values in the end.
“Everyone here died in the midst of repairing something. Chores and damage were inherited.”
Thanks to NetGalley and John Murray Publishers for my free copy. I purchased a hardback copy from Amazon following my read.