Book Review – The Last Hours – Minette Walters – historical fiction – highly recommended

Here’s the blurb;

“June, 1348: the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in the county of Dorsetshire. Unprepared for the virulence of the disease, and the speed with which it spreads, the people of the county start to die in their thousands.

In the estate of Develish, Lady Anne takes control of her people’s future – including the lives of two hundred bonded serfs. Strong, compassionate and resourceful, Lady Anne chooses a bastard slave, Thaddeus Thurkell, to act as her steward. Together, they decide to quarantine Develish by bringing the serfs inside the walls. With this sudden overturning of the accepted social order, where serfs exist only to serve their lords, conflicts soon arise. Ignorant of what is happening in the world outside, they wrestle with themselves, with God and with the terrible uncertainty of their futures.

Lady Anne’s people fear starvation but they fear the pestilence more. Who amongst them has the courage to leave the security of the walls?

And how safe is anyone in Develish when a dreadful event threatens the uneasy status quo..?”

With the second book of the series out on 4th October, I’ve been lucky enough to get to read both Book 1 and Book 2 before release date.

A stunning novel. Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy.

The Last Hours is a wonderful book. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s been some time since something has hooked me so entirely and I was thoroughly engrossed by the characters, time period and the portrayal of the Black Death and its devastating consequences. The fact that I now want to research the time period more, is a sure sign that the novel has well and truly drawn me in.

Social upheaval lies at the heart of The Last Hours, with the juxtaposition of the ‘status quo’ of the Norman ‘overlords’ against the perceived possibilities of a future for the serfs of Develish, where they’ve paid their way out of their serfdom, which gains momentum when the implications of the devastation to the population of Dorsetshire starts to be understood and comprehended by those in isolation. Coupled with the influence of the Church, as directed by the Papacy, and a more enlightened Christian doctrine as understood by Lady Anne, raised in a nunnery, social strife is inevitable in the confined space of the seclusion on the moated manor house of Lady Anne’s dead husband.

This is a novel that weaves many threads, and while the images of the devastated villages might be the most haunting, with unburied bodies and an explosion of the rat population, it is the combination of all the stories, that makes this such a rich tapestry. I am only pleased that I have Book 2 to read immediately!

The Last Hours is available now (and it’s only 99p);

Author: M J Porter, author

I'm a writer of historical fiction (Early England/Viking and the British Isles as a whole before 1066, as well as two 20th century mysteries).

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