Frightful Friday: Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured book is Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough:

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (July 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 076365808
  • Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)

Cora and her younger sister Mimi are reluctant to stay with their eccentric Aunt Ida, but their situation at home demands it. Ida doesn’t exactly welcome them with open arms, treating the girls as if they are a burden. She forbids the children from opening any windows or doors; these are to remained locked at all times. Cora believes her aunt to be a little batty. Little do the girls know about the history of the village of Byers Guerdon…

Cora and Mimi soon befriend Roger and Peter, two village boys, neighbors of Aunt Ida. They are granted a bit of freedom outside Ida’s home but they have been warned to stay away from the parish church building.  Roger and Peter have heard this warning most of their lives, so what do they do? They head to the church. After multiple visits to the church, Cora uncovers old letters detailing the history of the church, of Byers Guerdon, and the village legend of Long Lankin. She soon realizes she is in over her head, their very presence has awaken an evil that has remained buried for decades, an evil that has tormented her family for generations. Her anxiety is validated when she begins to hear voices, to see images of children in the cemetery. But it’s not she that Long Lankin is after…he is more interested in young Mimi.

Barraclough creates a delightfully chilling story of folklore and family curses in Long Lankin. I knew I was in for a treat after reading the chilling poem in the opening pages:

Said my lord to my lady, as he mounted his horse,
Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the moss.
Said my lord to my lady, as he rode away
Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the hay.
Let the doors be all bolted and the windows all pinned,
Except one little window,
where Long Lankin crept in…”

The poem of Long Lankin is a traditional poem based on an actual local legend, adding to the chill factor. Also contributing to this overwhelming feeling of dread is the setting. Ida lives in a village between a small stream that connects to the sea. At times, it is impossible to differentiate between the stream and the sea as they appear to be one. Additionally, Long Lankin is set in the 1950s, when there are no such things as cell phones and limited modes of transportation. The girls are secluded, miles away from any large pocket of civilization. Add a quirky aunt and a desolate landscape and you have the perfect recipe for a delightfully creepy horror story.

The author uses alternating points of view in this novel, allowing the reader to get the perspective of many of the main characters. The story starts from Cora’s perspective, then alternates between her, Roger, and Aunt Ida. This shifting point of view added to the overall dynamics of the novel allowing the reader to see all sides of the story, giving access to motivations and thoughts of each of the characters. I truly appreciated Cora’s perspective. At first, she starts out somewhat naive and a little annoying but is quick to act on her toes when that is demanded of her. Aunt Ida’s character is probably the one that develops the most, starting out with a mean, wicked old woman who slowly transitions into a caring, loving aunt.

I must say, the times when the characters recited the eerie little poem were the most chilling to me. Those of you readers who remember the Nightmare on Elm Street can remember the song children used to sing to warn of that terrifying monster. I felt the same level of fear reading about Long Lankin.

Ultimately, Long Lankin is a novel I believe would be appreciated by teens as well as adults. I only wish they had this sort of book when I was growing up! I think it serves as the perfect crossover from young adult horror to adult. Highly recommended!

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