“Said my Lord to my Lady as he rode away: ‘Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the hay.'”
I found Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough on the new YA fiction shelves at my public library, by choosing the first book that called out to me, seemingly at random. Reading the summary, I thought it might be GU. Turns out, it’s more of an honorable mention than a true Girls Underground story. However, I think it deserves a place here, especially because it is such a unique and truly chilling story.
It’s the summer of 1958, and Cora and her little sister Mimi are sent away from London to live with their great-aunt Ida in the country, because their mother is in the hospital indefinitely and their father can’t handle them alone. They soon become friends with two brothers who live down the road. Aunt Ida is not happy to have them, but will not explain why – she simply lays down a whole bunch of rules, such as not going to the old church nearby, and never opening any doors or windows in the house. Right away, strange things start happening, and Cora begins to unravel a dark and terrifying history behind this otherwise unremarkable English hamlet.
Cora’s little sister is in grave danger from a creature who was once a man, a creature called Long Lankin who creeps through the grass on all fours with his tall, slender body, hoping to prey on the life force of young children. The passages describing this monster are downright scary even for an adult reader – I am always impressed when a book can make me want to turn on all the lights in the house late at night.
While Cora has absentee parents, travels to a new and strange place, meets helpful companions, must rescue a family member, and defeat an adversary before it’s too late, it’s still not quite a GU story. In part because at the end, Cora is not the one facing off alone against the monster. Nor does she really have an extensive adventure. Picked apart, the details mostly fit, but the frisson of the GU story just isn’t quite there. Nonetheless, this book is absolutely worth reading. The setting of small-town, post-War Britain really adds something and helps the characters to come alive. And as I said, you’ll be keeping the lights on, especially for the last 100 pages.