Every autumn, John Pentecost returns to the Lancashire farm where he grew up to help gather the sheep from the moors. Generally, very little changes in the Briardale Valley, but this year things are different. His grandfather – known to everyone as the Gaffer – has died and John’s new wife, Katherine, is accompanying him for the first time. Gripping, unsettling and beautifully written, Andrew Michael Hurley’s new novel asks how much we owe to tradition, and how far we will go to belong.
When I finished reading this book, I put it down, quietly looked out into my back garden, and said to myself, “How in God’s name am I going to write a review that’s going to make any sense to anyone but me?” To say that author Andrew Michael Hurley has written an extraordinary tale is putting it mildly, I can’t even begin to tell you what to expect. Suffice it to say you are going to have to read it line by line and under no circumstances, can you put it down and return to it at a later time, sorry, it won’t work that way. From the moment Hurley takes you on a seemingly straightforward trip to the farm he was raised on, to burying his grandfather, and helping his dad bring the sheep down from the moors for the Winter, and to the finale that will knock your socks off!
What Hurley has done is weave a story that encompasses the life and deaths of an old farming community, a people that embraced an openness to ancient folklore and hold to traditions unknown to the outside world. The book tells us that John and his new wife Kay, are going to the farm that John was raised on to bury his grandfather, called the Gaffer, and to help his father bring down the sheep from the moors to the farm for the Winter. Kay has recently become pregnant and they hope word of the coming baby will bring comfort to the family. She is unaware of the folklore that is very much a part of the lives of the small farming community. They firmly believe that the Devil resides among them and that they have to be very careful not to allow him into their homes. They celebrate Devil’s Day to keep him away from the people and the cattle.
The story moves between the present, the past, and the future. You need to be very careful because the Devil weaves himself into everything and everyone. This is a great story, so simple and direct – not! If you don’t pay attention, Hurley will grab you and not let go. ‘Devil’s Day’ is beautifully written and very descriptive, written in a language I haven’t read in a long time. I could feel the cold rain and the smell of crushed leaves underfoot, the pig pens, the flakes of snow on my face, and when I finally got to meet to Devil himself, I was scared out of a years’ growth! Read it and then do what I did…read it again! It’s one of the best books I have read in some time.
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