The Hunger by Alma Katsu is an intelligent and eerily written portrayal of the true events of the Donner party as they attempted to make it to California in 1846. This book chilled me to the core; it was spooky and yet all too realistic, as the individual characters and storylines wove together and tore apart as quickly as ‘the hunger’ could move through the travelling party. The Hunger by Alma Katsu was published by Transworld on 6 March, 2018.
The Hunger by Alma Katsu follows a large group of 90 travellers, families and individuals alike in 1846, as they attempt to make it all the way to California. Closely followed include Tamsen Donner and her family, including her young daughters; Lewis Keseberg; and James Reed and family. As something deadly starts making its way through the camp, the travellers are forced to place blame and take the law into their own hands. With more of the party being separated, stakes are higher than ever before as families try to protect their loved ones from the hunger that lies within one of the campers.
Why I loved this book…
The Hunger by Alma Katsu is so enjoyable because it is raw and realistic; she does not shy away from these characters’ fates, pasts or base instincts. She tells this story as though she was there, watching and making notes the entire time. The vivid accounts of assumed events during this journey do not make you believe that this is a fictional account at all; Katsu gives many reasons for you to enjoy this as a true story. The plot is incredible, as Katsu provides historical context of the individual characters, while at the same time moving the travelling party forwards quickly enough to keep the reader entertained.
The characters in this book are written three-dimensionally, and I could imagine them stood in front of me and having conversations with them each having incredibly unique personalities. This is difficult to do, especially with a book with so many characters, as I find that they can often adopt various traits of other characters and blend into one, whereas Katsu manages to separate their individual characteristics to make them each very intriguing. I did not spend a single chapter wishing that I was reading about another character, which is a huge testament to Katsu’s sense of characterisation.
As well as this, The Hunger is actually quite chilling, tension-building and eerie. Although it is based on true events, the way that Katsu uses this to create her own villain using ‘the hunger’ and writes a legend into this story is impressive. Katsu made me worry for which character would be taken next, however I do feel that she spared some of the safe options, which maybe would have tugged on my heartstrings a bit more. Honestly, I could not have finished this book fast or slow enough. I had to pace myself to ensure that I was not getting ahead of my own enjoyment of the narrative it was that good.
Overall, The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a serious, chilling and insanely well-written novel. It is driven by plot, characters and identity as they fight their way to make it to California. I would recommend this book to lovers of true crime, ghost stories and fans of Frankenstein and suchlike. The journey through the varying climates and the pursual of ‘the hunger’ will make you fall in love with this story.