Monday, 6 May 2013

Review: Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Long Lankin

3 / 5

Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the moss. . . .When Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome. Auntie Ida is eccentric and rigid, and the girls are desperate to go back to London. But what they don't know is that their aunt's life was devastated the last time two young sisters were at Guerdon Hall, and she is determined to protect her nieces from an evil that has lain hidden for years. Along with Roger and Peter, two village boys, Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries -- before it's too late for little Mimi. Riveting and intensely atmospheric, this stunning debut will hold readers in its spell long after the last page is turned.

The cover and chilling legend of Long Lankin is what drew me to this book and I started reading it in earnest. I was instantly captured by the idea of a period of history that is perhaps a little overlooked; very shortly after the end of World War 2 when England was suffering in poverty from the aftermath of the conflict. Throw that in with a ghost story and it makes for quite an interesting mix!

I have to say, though, I was a bit underwhelmed by the story as it unfolded. Its pace is annoyingly slow, and seemed full of odd details that didn’t really serve to add anything except length. When a story has a period setting, I completely appreciate the amount of research and effort that has to go into transporting the reader to a specific pocket in time, and making it believable. But there’s a fine line that can be crossed which means too much detail, and that’s what trap I think this book fell into. I found that in many places, I only needed to read the first sentence or two of a paragraph to get an idea for what was happening. I hate skim-reading and skipping sections of any book, but I admit I did do that a little with this one.

Another thing that I found frustrating was the way the narrative tense kept randomly changing from past to present. It was like going over a pothole and seemed to completely jolt me out of the story. Also confusing was the jumps between characters. The book is told from several viewpoints, namely Cora, Roger, and Ida, and although doing this usually offers depth and meat to a story, with this one it didn’t have the seamlessness which I would have liked.
Saying all this, however, the descriptions of the surroundings were well handled, as were the way Barraclough brings in nods to Cockney and London through Cora’s remarks. The book manages to paint an intriguing picture of post-war England, which although oversaturated in parts, is a joy to see nonetheless. In regards to the titular character, I really liked how Long Lankin was given his own back-story that tied in with the other characters and gave some depth to the supernatural elements of the book.

I’m unsure about whether I’ll read the sequel, but although I’m a little on the hedge with how I feel about Long Lankin, I’d suggest giving it a try if you can persevere with the slow parts.

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