The Last Hours by Minette Walters (Allen & Unwin) ISBN: 9781760632151
It is 1348 and the plague is sweeping through England. People are dying in their thousands and nobody knows how the disease is spread.
In Dorsetshire, Lady Anne decides to take control of her people’s future in the estate of Develish. This includes two hundred bonded serfs. Lady Anne, who was raised by nuns, understands that diseases are less likely to spread when sick people are quarantined.
After her arrogant, abusive husband, Sir Richard dies, she chooses a slave, Thaddeus Thurkell, to act as her steward. They bring the serfs inside the walls to protect them. Lady Anne’s spoilt daughter loathes the new arrangements, the priest is unhappy, and everybody is restless. Their future is unclear, food is running out, but the fear of the Black Death is even worse.
I loved Minette Walters idea for the story and the immense amount of research that has gone into writing this book. I did not like the fact that this slowed the story down with too many details.
Another huge problem for me was the story’s abrupt non-ending. It was not made clear that this book was part one of a series when I started to read it. This is not usually problematic as every book in a series should be able to stand alone. Unfortunately, with the way this one ended, it can’t.
I have read all of Minette Walters crime fiction and I think she is a superb writer in that genre. She needs to pick up the pace and tighten the plotting in this historical fiction offering.
The Last Hours by Minette Walters (Allen & Unwin) ISBN 9781760632151
A historical novel in not usually my choice, but I undertook to read this book as the insistence of a close friend, and I am glad I did.
The Last Hours is a beautifully crafted story of the survival of the enclave of Develish as the Black Death approaches. The setting is 1348 England when Lords ruled their land and servants with no mercy. In Develish, the unassuming Lady Anne awaits the return of her oafish husband, Sir Richard. Unbeknownst to the town, the Black Death has taken parts of Dorsetshire and is spreading rapidly.
When Sir Richard’s party return with him sick from the plague, Lady Anne refuses to open the gate and infect the town. She sets up a quarantine, and brings all the townspeople, serf and nobleman alike, into the compound. Here they fight off the disease with Lady Anne’s knowledge of medicine, even though many including her daughter are against her treating the servants with any dignity.
The Last Hours examines social expectations and the abuse of power in an amazing poetic way, and is a truly enjoyable read.