Lucy Clarke has become a novelist that I turn to if I want to be transported to an exotic or wild setting near a large body of water and even though The Hike is set in the mountains of Norway, she still provides a sea to swim in. We all have writers we turn to when we desire a specific mood, for me, I rely heavily on Clarke for atmosphere. The reason why she gets it right every time is because she submerges herself into her settings for research and is able to bring it alive on the page, there is only so much that google can do. In this case, I have realised that hiking in Norway is not for me and that’s not because there is a killer on the trail.
Clarke introduces four women; Maggie, Liz, Helena and Joni and each woman harbour their own secret, some are darker than others. Her characters are quite often studies of female friendship in a setting outside of their comfort zones. She has written about sisterhood in The Sea Sisters, You Let Me In and The Castaways but the last two books; One of the Girls and, The Hike, places a magnifying glass on a group of women and the dynamics within those friendships and tests them when secrets and resentments are thrown in.
It is Liz’s turn to decide where their holiday is going to be, and she has chosen Norway where they will climb Blafjell mountain after a recent realisation that she has a penchant for walking which helps untangle herself from her home life which isn’t as good as she lets on. The other women had been hoping for a beach holiday and not one they had to train and be physically fit for. It doesn’t take long to discover things are not as they seem when they arrive in Norway. It turns out that Maggie looks uncannily like a young woman who disappeared on the Blafjell mountain a year before and tensions are tight as blame is placed on the woman’s missing boyfriend who happens to be the brother of the lodge manager.
Blafjell mountain is considered by locals as a thin place and is therefore immediately shrouded in mystery but we know it is the corporeal things in life we need to fear, not the things we cannot see nor touch. Once the women step onto the trail, we witness a slow unravelling and unveiling of their friendships. As they continue along the path, they soon realise they are not alone and when their path is cut off, they realise they need to continue with caution as their journey perilous:
She’d read about the climb and knew the conditions were tough, lots of scrambling and steep elevations. “The first peak looks okay. But the challenge is crossing the ridge. It’s half a kilometre long-and it’s narrow, which means it’s lethal if it’s wet or windy or the visibility is bad.”
This is Clarke’s eighth novel and the suspense and atmosphere bubbles away and stirs from beneath everything that we can see, threatening to boil over but it is carefully contained until the moment it can no longer remain submerged. The Hike looks closely at the nature of friendship. The movement from being school friends and the awkwardness in youth to friendship in adult life. When you are older, you rely on friends showing up even when things in their own lives are messy. This is a story about friendship and how to find a way past certain obstacles whether you want to or not.