4/5 Inexplicably Sticky Old Bones
Give me the short version:
Insular rural village is unwelcoming to troubled young family who go stirring up ancient curses.
Starve Acre was ultimately a tricky one for me. The folk horror premise will already be familiar to regular horror readers and a trigger for many (like me) to pick it up immediately. To those who say they've read it all before: the pleasure here is in the execution.
Hurley writes from an engaging psychological perspective, unearthing the motivations behind actions with humanism front and center over the horror; but the language is anything but clinical. As the story unrolls it is soothing and immersive while unease gradually creeps up.
Now we come to the difficult part, which you might argue was entirely my own problem. I thought I was reading a certain type of book and Starve Acre turned out to be something else. Namely, right when I thought events were about to tip into high gear for a rollercoaster final few chapters, the story artistically and tastefully ended. In fact my partner suggested I cut off my review before the end which made me laugh, but ultimately I feel this was a fault of my expectations rather than the story.
To close this review, if you love thoughtful folk horror Starve Acre might be the place for you. Also I'm going to give a shout out to the red rabbit cover design which would make a stupendous tattoo
"As so few people passed Starve Acre, it was possible to tell from the tenor of an engine who was coming before they appeared. There was a subtle difference between the Drewitts' tractor and the Burnsalls'; between the laboured shudders of the Westburys' cattle truck and the whine and backfire of Gordon Lambwell's Bedford. A stranger could not help but herald their own arrival."