The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan
|The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan
|Category: Literary Fiction
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie
|Summary: The book's location is rural Derbyshire. A small family unit has been recently broken and it's now up to a young step-mum called Maggie to keep troubled teenager and step-son Christopher on the straight and narrow but with other important things going on in her life, can she manage it?
|Date: March 2011
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster
We're plunged into a crisis straight away. Some of the animals from the wildlife park have escaped and are now running amok. They are Maggie's responsibility and she has to try to round them up without danger to either human or themselves. It's a tough, physical duty so it's a good job she can rely on her neighbour Louisa as an extra pair of hands. Christopher is unreliable to say the least, he's never there when you need him. But is Louisa any better?
She's gruff, rude and hates to be bothered. But why? We find out as the novel develops. Hogan gives his readers plenty (too much at times, I thought) of background information on his main characters. So we find out that Maggie's husband and Christopher's father is deceased. The park had been his pride and joy. As a southerner, you'd easily forgive Maggie for high-tailing it back to where she knows best. She's had a rough time in Derbyshire. The locals have been less than friendly and Christopher is almost a full-time job.
And the first quarter of the book is all about nature. Animals, birds (Louisa is a trained falconer), the seasons, the changing countryside etc. All of this writing gives off a misty, sometimes enigmatic quality like Colour drained from the sky like blood from a clenched fist ... The brutality of nature is not overlooked, however. Hogan certainly warms to his theme as we are offered whole paragraphs and sometimes whole pages (at times I did feel as if I'd stumbled upon a nature magazine). We also get lots of background information on Louisa and David (deceased husband of Maggie). We discover that David and Louisa were childhood friends and that they shared a terrible secret.
The build-up to the real action in the book is slow and steady. Consequently, for the first 100 pages or so, I didn't really engage with the characters. I felt as if I was skimming the surface somewhat. In fact, I found parts rather pedantic and a bit dull, if I'm honest. But then, to be fair, the story did pick up. The two women are almost thrown together through David and by simple geography. They are very different characters and of the two I veered towards Louisa. At least she was interesting. Maggie I found to be far too sweet to be totally believable. Christopher kind of see-saws between the two, causing quite a bit of friction for all concerned. I found Christopher a joy. He says it like it is. He has his own unique way of conversing and communicating with people which was, on the whole, heart-warming and sometimes quite funny.
Even although we're in the wide, open spaces of fields, it's a taut story. Emotions linger under the surface for most of the novel. And the main theme is how these two women interact and also cope with what life throws at them. The second part of the book was definitely more interesting and more enjoyable, in my opinion. But, overall I didn't really get into the story properly and therefore didn't enjoy the book as much as I thought I was going to, after reading the blurb on the cover. I was left feeling rather under-whelmed, I'm afraid.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals you might like to try Dreams of Rivers and Seas by Tim Parks.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan 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 The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan at Amazon.com.
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