Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
|Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy
|Summary: Truly creepy and truly literary period thriller set in post-war Britain and based on the folk ballad about the bogeyman Long Lankin. A stunning debut and highly recommended.
|Date: April 2011
|Publisher: Bodley Head
Let the doors all be bolted and the windows all pinned, And leave not a hole for a mouse to creep in.
The doors were all bolted and the windows all pinned, Except one little window where Long Lankin crept in...
Long Lankin is a folk ballad about a bogeyman that lives on the edge of society in wild, desolate places and preys upon children. In this story, he lives out in East Anglia in the marshes outside the village of Bryers Guerdon. It's post-war Britain and when Cora's mother suffers a breakdown, she and her younger sister Mimi are sent to stay with their Auntie Ida in the manor house there. They don't know it - Auntie Ida does, though - but Long Lankin is attracted to young children.
But it's clear to Cora that something isn't right from the very beginning. Auntie Ida is cross and unreasonable. She insists that all the doors in the house are kept locked and the windows closed at all times, even when it's swelteringly hot. She forbids the girls from visiting the old church nearby and she orders them about obsessively. So when Cora meets and makes friends with Roger, a boy from the village, she does what all children do when something is forbidden with no explanation - she breaks the rules. And in so doing, she reawakes that dormant evil. Things become even more oppressive - warnings scrawled on walls, disembodied voices singing, apparitions - and it's clear that Mimi is in great danger...
Gosh! Long Lankin is truly spine-chilling. A real sense of menace pervades the book and the cold dampness of the abandoned church and Ida's neglected home feel almost tangible. As the danger to Mimi gets closer and more threatening, the read is absolutely compelling and I turned the pages filled with dread and unease. Overlaying the horror story underneath, Barraclough also paints a vivid picture of 1950s Britain and of a child's emotional landscape. Cora is unhappy - her mother is ill, but nobody's told her the truth about what's going on and her father has simply abandoned his daughters to the care of an aunt they don't know. So she's spiky and cross to cover her fear. Roger comes from a big and largely happy family and the snapshot of life amidst laughter, chatter and sibling mishaps and rivalry is an absolute joy to read.
I loved this book. It's such an impressive debut. Every element is spot on - from the elegant prose, through the realistic portrayal of various aspects of family life, the three-dimensional characters and the occasional comic set-piece, to the supernatural horror underpinning it, which is absolutely chilling.
My thanks to the good people at Bodley Head for sending the book.
If high quality creepiness is their thing, then we also recommend Revolver and My Swordhand is Singing, both by the redoubtable Marcus Sedgwick. They could also look at Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge and Ghost Chamber by Celia Rees. I also think Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd would appeal, as would Buried Thunder by Tim Bowler.
You can read more book reviews or buy Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough at Amazon.com.
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