The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish

The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish.  Aimed at teen-agers, ‘The Hunting Ground’ gets to the heart of fear. With abandonment, violence and isolation this ticks all the boxes with its readers. Well described with an intense, haunting sense of place, ‘The Hunting Ground’ looks at the nature of family, love and hate.


When Elliot and his younger brother Ben move to yet another house with their father, they are resigned to it. Their Dad specialises in doing up properties for clients and the kids travel with him, changing schools but more importantly staying together. But Glebe House has a problem, something starts to haunt the boys and Ben in particular is drawn to the East Wing where something even more terrible has made its home. Elliot must fight for his family if they are ever to escape this dreadful house.

I had some problem with the constructions of the narrative in this book. There are some jarring moments when the narration does not feel in-context. Effectively, the story is told from several points of view, externally to Eliot and more directly from his experiences. The odd bit is when his father is separated from him and his brother, the narrator is now effectively the author but the narration continues to call him Dad even though it is not Elliot telling the story. This made me feel that he wasn’t a fully rounded character because he is only referred to by this title. It’s a small thing but it distracted me from the story. It might not work in the same way for a younger reader who more directly relates to parents as identified only by these labels.

With this reservation aside this is a thrilling and chilling story. There is a strong sense of doom, foreboding and claustrophobia. We are constantly wrong-footed as to what might happen. There is a very disturbing enemy and Elliot’s sense of helplessness is well brought out. The nature of the loss of family and friends is a strong and a well-developed theme which should give readers great food for thought.

Sue Davies

September 2012


(pub: Orion Children’s Books. 314 page page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: -78-1-84255-993-2)

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