Review: Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley

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Hold the front page. I actually finished this one in under 24 hours! And given the fact that I’m a tortoise when it reading, that says something about Andrew Michael Hurley’s ability to captivate a reader.

Starve Acre combines some of the best elements of Hurley’s other books The Loney https://katecudahy.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/review-the-loney-andrew-michael-hurley/ and Devil’s Day https://katecudahy.wordpress.com/category/devils-day/, although I’d have to say that nothing ever really comes close to the drip feed of terror that infuses The Loney. It’s probably the best horror I’ve ever read.

However, what features in  Hurley’s writing at all times is the way landscape operates as another character in the book: often evil, certainly unwelcoming. Another character that mocks all human attempts to inhabit it and call it home. Whether it’s the bleak Lancastrian coastline in The Loney, the hillsides of the North West in Devil’s Day or the Yorkshire Dales in the case of Starve Acre, Hurley is intent on impressing how cruel, unknowable and dangerous nature is. And how it’s best left well alone.

Starve Acre incorporates all the staple ingredients of classic gothic. An old, ruined house; Folk tales of evil spirits; a dead child. And as Hurley racks up the pressure, you just know things are not going to end well. It’s true that, as Guardian reviewer Nina Allen observes, Hurley’s female characters could do with being a bit more nuanced: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/nov/23/starve-acre-andrew-michael-hurley-review. And I frequently found myself screaming at Richard, the main character ‘to just get out of there, you idiot!’ but I still reckon that there are very few writers around now capable of creating the same chilling sense of sinister atmosphere; of incipient evil as Andrew Michael Hurley.

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