- Nikky Lee
Book Review: The Devil And The Loch Ard Gorge by Leanbh Pearson
Title: The Devil And The Loch Ard Gorge
Author: Leanbh Pearson
Publisher: Black Hare Press (Indie)
Genre: gothic horror
Page count: 58
In the way of great gothic horror, this short novella oozes atmosphere and foreboding. Told through the eyes of Seána as she muses on her failings some years after the events that changed her life, we quickly learn things do not end well for her. But like all great stories, it’s about the journey rather than the destination; and once I was teased with the promise of a shipwreck and a pact with the Devil, discovering how these past events have played out was what drove me to turn the page.
As a novella, The Devil and the Loch Ard Gorge runs on the shorter side, however, don’t let that dissuade you from reading it. Pearson’s lyrical writing pulls you in, and if you’re a massive fan of first-person POV like I am, this one delivers beautifully. The horror in this story is subtle. While the supernatural makes an appearance, it’s watching Seána’s character flaws come home to roost that is the true horror. Seána is both naive and impulsive, her youth combined with her privileged background leading her to take risks a more world-wise woman wouldn’t. While a different genre might have seen such a character evolve out of their flaws—this gothic tale explores the life-changing consequences of giving into impulses without thought for consequences. We get to watch the protagonist’s dread rise and unfold as she realises her error too late, and her dawning that some decisions and their consequences can’t be undone.
Blending historical elements into the story was also a masterstroke on Pearson’s part, and part of my enjoyment of this was getting to uncover the true story that inspired the fictional one. As soon as I finished I was off Googling the Loch Ard and the notorious gorge that bears the same name.
In all, while you might finish this short, haunting read quite easily in one sitting, The Devil and the Loch Ard Gorge is one of those stories that will leave you musing on horrors of our own making and thinking (and maybe Googling) a long while after.
Content warnings: domestic abuse, murder/manslaughter, suicide, blood, death.
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