The Devil & The Loch Ard Gorge
By Leanbh Pearson
Seána McKinnon, daughter of a well-to-do London businessman and his wife, finds love in the arms of a lowly artist. Her parent’s disapproval of their relationship lays heavy on her heart until, borne of frustration, she makes a bargain with the Devil that will be with her for all her years.
When she flees Gravesend on the ill-fated Loch Ard, dark shadows sail with her.
Will Seána ever be free of the horrors that defile her past and haunt her future?
Praise for The Devil & the Loch Ard Gorge
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.– Nikky Lee
Let me unburden myself, whisper my story to the wind, my final testament. The Devil can wait a little longer.
A short tale that defies you to put it down and can easily be read in one sitting. Pearson does a fantastic job with establishing the chilling setting from the first page (including the fantastic line above), and we follow the MC through a dreary and terrifying life as she resists the fate she herself set in motion.
What’s a little frustrating, perhaps due to its short length, is the MC’s actions, and while she can be admired for knowing what she wants and going after it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the beginning of Frozen…you know, where Elsa chides her sister for recklessly throwing herself at a man she hasn’t known for long? I suppose it’s easy to judge as a reader sitting comfortably on the outside of a toxic relationship, but I found it difficult to empathise with the character when her decision-making was characterised by reckless, impulsive choices that brought instant gratification.
Yet I thoroughly enjoyed this little read, transported for a moment to its gloomy London streets and the creaking beams of the Loch Ard as it sailed to Melbourne, ignorant of its fate…– K.B. Elijah
A quick little seafaring horror to shiver your timbers…shipwreck with the devil!– Clare E Rhoden