Tuesday 3 April 2012

The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan

review by Maryom

When David Bryant dies suddenly, his young widow Maggie is left struggling with the running of his wild-life park on an isolated Derbyshire hilltop. Seen by the locals as an outsider she has no one to turn to apart from Louisa, a reclusive falconer living in a cottage on the park who's loved David since she was a teenager and resents Maggie's presence. Maggie also has to cope with Christopher, David's eccentric, possibly autistic, teenage son from a previous marriage who also resents her. Christopher believes he can find the girl of his dreams through internet dating sites. Maggie and Louisa,meanwhile, find themselves vying for the attention of a 'male escort'... Can they all find a way clear of their troubles.

The Hunger Trace is a powerful, emotionally charged novel of people trapped by circumstances, love and their past. Isolated on their hilltop, Maggie, Louisa and Christopher are forced to depend on each other - even if they would rather not. Their actions are mirrored by the park animals which manage to escape only to be rounded up and brought back but also by Louisa's hawks who are drawn back to their handler through hunger rather than affection. Louisa is only a few short steps away from "crazy lady" - she's tied by the dark deep secret shared with David and now spends all her time with her birds, ferocious hunters rather than cute trilling songbirds. Christopher, too, is decidedly strange - moving between childlike in outlook and wise beyond his years

From its surreal opening with a herd of ibex roaming the Derbyshire countryside to an ending with floods of almost biblical proportions this is a novel that pulled me in and held me, waiting and hoping that these characters could find a way to work things out, come to terms with the past and move on. Yet it's difficult to say what exactly hooked me. It's curious that the cover quote comes from Hilary Mantel (OK, she's 'local') but on reflection, I think the story-telling style of The Hunger Trace is similar to that of Wolf Hall. The reader is immediately immersed in the novel's world but nothing remarkable seems to be happening. Time is needed to let the story evolve, for the bigger picture to become clear.

For anyone 'local' as I am, there's the added attraction of guessing the locations. The wild-life park is obviously inspired by Riber near Matlock but its name 'Drum Hill' comes from elsewhere in Derbyshire.

An excellent book from a 'new to me' author and someone I will be watching for in the future. Edward Hogan also has a teen fiction book called "Daylight Saving" which should also make intriguing reading.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - Adult literary fiction,

Buy The Hunger Trace from Amazon

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