Thursday, 8 November 2018

The Hunger by Alma Katsu



Sometimes I just like to read, and I find it difficult to sit down to write a review. Or maybe, I just don't have time just after reading and then you tend to forget more detailed thoughts of the book. Sometimes I do make notes, mostly on non-fiction books, but it is more useful if you take notes also on fiction books. However, that also takes away the flow of the reading. How are you doing? Do you make notes as you read along? Well, here we are with a book I read about a month ago. The author is new to me, Alma Katsu.

"Deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down, not recommended reading after dark." That is a short review from Stephen King. He is right, there is something disturbing out there in the wilderness.

The novel tells the story of the Donner party, a group of American pioneers who travelled west to California in a wagon train in May 1846. This is a true story and the party was delayed due to mistakes in planning, bad organisation and choosing the wrong route. They were stuck in the Sierra Nevada over the winter. Of the 87 members of the train, only 48 survived. It is said that they resorted to cannibalism to survive. A very tragic story.

Alma Katsu has used the true story to build up her fictitious story. Her deviation from the true story mostly concerns the disappearance and death of the people that did not survive. A small research of Katsu reveals that, according to Publishers Weekly's review of her first book The Taker, she has "the ability to portray a supernatural setting in an immediate and realistic way ("makes the supernatural seem possible").  This very much also describes The Hunger. I will not reveal and spoil her ideas of what happened to the people. It is rather scaring, although I did not really like the interpretation. But then, I am not so much into supernatural things.

What her interpretation did though, and I find it very skilfully, is to give the reader a vision of people in harsh conditions. The supernatural influence helps describe peoples feelings and reactions to the situation. It is a chilling feeling. When does hope fail and you realise not all is going well. In the end the big culprit is HUNGER. It is difficult to imagine how you would react if you were in a similar situation.  Out in the middle of nowhere, snow all around you, the cold, no game to add to your meal. Katsu manages to describe this rather realistically, with the use of the supernatural elements.

The novel is a page turner, is well researched and written. I did like her writing and am thinking of trying something else by her. My mistakes was probably that I thought the novel was more of a non-fiction account of the trip. Having said that, the basic story is a true story. I love when writers use real life persons or happenings and incorporate it in their story. So, yes, I can recommend this book.

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