Devil’s Day, by Andrew Michael Hurley
John Pentecost and his pregnant wife Kat return to the Endlands, a small farming community in Lancashire, when his grandfather—the Gaffer—dies suddenly, “like a lightbulb blowing out and blackening the glass.” There, he learns that the Gaffer had recently committed a heinous crime and now someone has tried to burn down the Endlands’ woods. Was it retribution?
He also discovers that Dadda, his ailing father, can no longer handle the farm on his own. John longs to return to the Endlands, which he’d fled years earlier for a stifling job in academia. Kat, however, sees the Endlands “as the setting for a part of my life that was well and truly over… a place where she would always be a visitor and happily so.”
What did I love about Devil’s Day? The sense of place is amazing. Hurley conveys the beauty, rituals, and antagonisms of rural life the way that someone can only if he or she has experienced the annual Gathering of sheep from the moors.
Also, so much of the writing is gorgeous. I especially loved Hurley’s description of Kat’s relationship with the little girls at her nursery. “It was on her knee that they sat to cry, her sleeves they snotted on, her hair they plated with their jam-sticky fingers, her hands they clung to when it was time to go home.”
So, what would it have taken for me to give Devil’s Day 5 stars? I would have wanted to see a better resolution of Kat’s opposition to returning to the farm. This conflict was glossed over at the end and I was left confused by the twists in John and Kat’s relationship.
One thing is certain: I look forward to reading The Loney, Hurley’s debut book, which won the Costa First Novel Award in 2016