What's the deal?
Long Lankin is based on an old song and myth. Two young girls, Cora and her little sister Mimi, are forced to move into their Aunt Ida's old house in the small village of Byers Guerdon. They meet two village boys, Roger and his brother Pete, which is pretty much the only good thing that happens to the girls until probably the end of the book. Auntie Ida is not pleased to have the girls AT ALL (and that's an understatement), but as the novel progresses, strange things begin to happen, and we see that, actually, Auntie Ida may just have a point when it comes to not wanting the kids to stay. It's a hard book to summarise without giving away any of the plot, so I'm just going to say that Roger and Cora have their work cut out for them trying to keep themselves (and Mimi) alive.
How does it work?
The book is written in first person narration, and split into 3 viewpoints - Cora, Roger and Auntie Ida. It is structured sort of like a diary, as in it's chaptered by days, and is then split further into the 3 perspectives. Although this frequent change of perspective makes the narration a little choppy at times, it adds to the overall feel and fast pace of the book. It is quite slow to start (plenty of scene building), but it soon picks up in pace, and the seemingly irrelevant details given, often from Cora, such as the scratch marks on the doors, holes being dug in the garden and scrabbling noises on the roof late at night, all tie in at the end. Indeed, the book makes more and more sense the further in you go, and I often caught myself muttering "oh I see" or words to that effect in the second half.
The book is creepy pretty much from the offset, and I found it (although I am a self-confessed wimp) downright scary at times. It's the sort of book you wish you could put down just for a few minutes, just so you can catch your breath, gather your thoughts and reign in your imagination, but you actually can't bring yourself to turn away. Long Lankin is "regular book size" or maybe a bit longer (around 455 pages) but it's by no means a slog to get through - the changing perspectives and increasing levels of action gives it a short, snappy feel.
- The character interaction between Cora and Roger. I loved their friendship and I'm so glad you see the events from both points of view. I also quite liked that there was no romance at all in the book. Now, I do like a good bit of romance, and Roger seems like he would be an amazing boyfriend, but the fact that they did everything together WITHOUT falling hopelessly in love and declaring undying affection by the end was just an added bonus.
- The amount of description. This was such a detailed book, and I could see every scene unfolding in my head without having to make any conscious efforts to imagine anything (example that won't spoil anything: 'He gloats at us, drawing back his thin, wasted lips and showing us his pointed yellow teeth. He is smiling'). In some books you have to think a little harder to see the story unfold (not a bad thing at all, I have a very active imagination), but in Long Lankin, all you had to do was draw up the courage to actually read on.
- Auntie Ida's character progression. At first, I thought Ida was a horrible person. Yes, I can appreciate she had some bad things going on and she was scared for Cora and Mimi, but she really is horrible to Cora. I didn't like the fact that she yells at and hits Cora repeatedly, yet doesn't so much as scold Mimi even though both of them broke the rules. However, as I read on, I found myself sympathising with Ida, and when I started to understand what was wrong, I just wanted to weep with her. It was a brilliant example of everything tying together in the end to make someone you didn't think much of into your hero.
- It's based on a real myth. I love mythology, and I think that, for me, the fact that Barraclough based her book on an actual Northern myth and song really enhances the book.
- At times, I got ever so slightly annoyed with the characters, such as when Ida scolds Cora for any little thing but doesn't yell at Mimi, even though both of them were breaking Ida's rules. I also thought, at times, that Roger and Cora talking to each other sounded more like adults than children. HOWEVER, having finished the book I now see that the things I quietly criticised when I read them were either not what I thought they were, or are actually relevant or addressed later in the book. So I'm not sure this is an actual criticism of the book, more like an observation that if, like me, you get annoyed in parts, stick it out because it all comes together.
I didn't find this a particularly quotable book (and by that I mean life affirming type quotes that I will regularly spout at people), however I loved Roger and some of his lines really amused me. I'll put just a couple, and please leave any quotes that you guys particularly enjoyed in the comments below.
'Pete and me are pretty sure she's a witch, like old Gussie Jetherell, just down from us - though she definitely is. She's got lots of cats and that's a sign' ~ Roger
'Your mother's always going on about her and Uncle Ben being told the church was spooky when they were kids. That sort of thing doesn't scare me though. I fought Hitler' ~ Roger's dad, and I think it may have been the way I imagined him saying this that made it such a good line for me.
I haven't read a lot of horror or "dark" books but Long Lankin really has given me a great introduction to the genre. Word of warning though: Unless your one of those "I'm not scared of anything" types, read this one in the midday light, not at bedtime! Rating wise, I'll give Long Lankin 4.5 out of 5, and I can safely say it's one of the best books I've read in a while.
The sequel to Long Lankin - The Mark of Cain - is due out this year. The Random House website says that the publication date is 3rd July 2014. For me, July CANNOT come soon enough! I gather the sequel is more about Aphra Rushes (read Long Lankin if you want to know who she is!) not Long Lankin, and I am really interested in seeing more of her. Also, I can't wait to meet Cora again (and hopefully Roger!).
Hope you enjoyed this. If you've read Long Lankin, or if it's on your to-read list, leave a comment below!
Disclaimer: I borrowed the book Long Lankin from the library. I haven't been paid or bribed in any way to read or recommend it.