Monday, 9 April 2018

The Hunger

The Hunger by Alma Katsu
Published by Bantam Press
April 2018

After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner’s decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the brink of madness, the ill-fated group struggles to survive and minor disagreements turn into violent confrontations. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements, to something more primal and far more deadly.

When I saw that The Hunger was being published I instantly requested a copy to read because I have a degree in American Studies and so the infamous story of the Donner party attempting to cross America in 1846 was something that was well documented when I was at university.  Alma Katsu's book is an homage to this event, to the families that joined the Donner's to cross America to make it to California to realise their 'American Dream'.

There are a number of characters in this book and Katsu takes a number of them and makes them her focal points throughout which keeps the reader interested in what is happening through a number of different perpectives.  Whether you like them or not, they all play a vital role in the unfolding drama.

For anyone who is not familiar with the tale, let us say this - it does not have a happy ending.  It is not one of success and celebration at the end of the journey.  It is one of miscalculation, of fate and bad fortune for all involved.  You can google it to find out more or buy one of the many books on the subject itself, but I have to commend Katz for not making her tale too gruesome.  She hints at it, quite strongly, but never commits to those final depraved moments that we know occurred and whilst she could have done, I actually don't think that the book needed it.  She was right to hint, and then walk away and leave matters to the readers own imaginations.

This was a perfect read for the recent winter nights we have been having recently and I thanked my lucky stars that I have never had to experience anything like the homesteaders of America did.  

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

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