Monday, 28 January 2013

A Daddy Review Of "The Last Minute" by Eleanor Updale (David Fickling Books)

The Last Minute by Eleanor Updale (Cover by Richard Collingridge)
In an accident, survivors always describe the moments up to the event itself as happening almost in slow motion. As if time somehow grinds to a halt around a cataclysmic event. In Eleanor Updale's latest novel "The Last Minute", time stretches out across 60 chapters like the threads of a complex tapestry. As voyeurs to the events preceding a huge tragedy in a small town, we are painfully and torturously placed in the lead car of a roller coaster ride that slams straight into a brick wall, full stop.

Books are often described as building tension towards a climax, page turners keeping readers on the edge of their seats. In "The Last Minute" we, as readers, follow each thread disjointedly with no choice but to hang on as Updale's almost documentarian storytelling hints at the impact to come.

It's a tough read for a lot of reasons. At times, it's overwhelming trying to pick up the threads you're most interested in (and everyone will have a particular 'favourite' character or plotline they identify with - from an unfortunate man heading for a job interview, victim to several "Mr Bean" style accidents along the way to a toddler staring through the window of a coffee shop, fascinated by a digger working on the road).

As the novel reaches the peak at which we feel like we should hold our breath, we already know that tragedy is close at hand so the book feels like it finishes on a low. This is not a novel to cheer yourself up with, this is a novel that radically demonstrates the sheer amount of contributing factors towards a tragedy, and how the fallout from it affects the people involved.

There's a great web resource to visit for more information on the book's fictional report into the tragedy itself

I'd advise you to read the book first though. It's a really fast-paced novel that is virtually impossible to put down once you start to flick through. I did feel that the actual chain of events at the end of that fateful minute felt like they were skipped over, compared to the build up, but it's intense and interesting to read how the report tries to piece together the exact circumstances of the tragedy afterwards. Fascinating, chilling, gripping.