The winner of the Costa book Award in 2015; I have been meaning to read this book for a while and never got the chance, until now. A creepy cover featuring a lonesome house of boggy moorland with a vague blurb about brothers, one mute the other his closest and only friend. I was hooked. Or so I thought.
We view their story through Tonto’s eyes, the older brother who throughout the novel is failed to be given a name other than this. Although it is his narrative the lack of a true name pushes focus onto Hanny and his story, leaving us and Tonto as an observer.
With the hype that the book received and winning the Costa Book award my expectations of this book may have been slightly too high. I was expecting a tale about the discovery of a child’s body and how the brothers dealt with this. Which it is but, not in the way you would think. I thought we would follow the boys and see how this affected them and if they had any part to play in this. The book leads up to the discovery of the body and leaves it as a mystery rather than detailing the facts of what actually happened. At the beginning we are introduced to Tonto years later reminiscing almost about his time at the Loney and how he will always be there for his brother. We are then transported back in time to when the brothers were teenagers and follow them through this journey. I didn’t mind this as a narrative hook, I’ve read plenty of books like this before but this book, something just didn’t sit right with me.
I was expecting something gripping, something that would intrigue me and enable me to lose myself. This didn’t happen. I couldn’t connect with Tonto or Hanny and their plight. The book left me with more questions than answers which is disappointing. There are lots of narratives layered on top of one another, some which seem redundant to the story (to me anyway). With so much happening it was hard to see whose story it is. Is it Tonto’s story as he looks out for Hanny? It is Hanny’s story about him regaining his voice? Perhaps it is their mother’s and her plight to enable Hanny to talk again? Or is it the priest’s story and how he is trying to lead his new flock with his predecessor always present in some way?
I think in a few years I will come back to this book and be able to see exactly what is happening but, right now, I am unable to. The lack of clarity is frustrating and snippets of other narratives did not add to my experience of the novel. If I were to put on my English Lit head I’m sure I could go into how the lack of clarity links to the religious side of the novel and the lack of clarity in religion and then examine the new priest’s views of religion in this context; but I don’t want to do that. I could also discuss the failure to tell the reader Tonto’s true name and what this does for Tonto’s role within the novel and is relationship with Hanny.
All I will say is next time I go back to this novel expect an essay rather than a review.