The Last Hours
by Minette Walters
Series: Black Death #1
Genres: Historical Fiction
Purchase: Amazon | Audible
When the Black Death enters England through the port in Dorsetshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is—or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness.
But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarity among women, being both literate and knowledgeable. With her brutal husband absent from the manor when news of this pestilence reaches her, she looks for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. She decides to bring her serfs inside the safety of the moat that surrounds her manor house, then refuses entry to anyone else, even her husband.
Lady Anne makes an enemy of her daughter and her husband’s steward by doing so, but her resolve is strengthened by the support of her leading serfs…until food stocks run low. The nerves of all are tested by continued confinement and ignorance of what is happening in the world outside. The people of Develish are alive. But for how long? And what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat again?
Compelling and suspenseful, The Last Hours is a riveting tale of human ingenuity and endurance set against the worst pandemic in history. In Lady Anne of Develish—leader, savior, heretic—Walters has created her most memorable heroine to date.
The Last Hours by Minette Walters takes near the port in Dorsetshire in June 1348 where it is believed the Black Death (plague) entered England. With her husband away, Lady Anne of Develish along with her serfs take drastic measures to ensure their safety. Isolation, discord and danger made for a clever tale.
Imagine if you would a dark mysteriously plague coming to your door. It doesn’t discriminate and none survive. Throughout Dorsetshire whole communities are fall to the disease. Thanks to her husband’s need for grandeur a moat surrounds the Manor of Develish. While it’s true, Lady Anne thought the moat foolish, she uses it to keep out the infected and moves all of her servants, serfs, animals and food storage into the Manor. Quarters are cramped, but the practices Lasy Anne has instilled in Develish help her and her people.
Maybe I am twisted or perhaps nutters, but books surrounding the Black Death (bubonic plague) or any plague fascinate me. Since this story derives from a historical plague, I knew I had to read it. It pleased me that Walters did her research offering the reader a sense of realism.
The Last Hours was a fascinating, rich, character driven tale that held me captive from page one. The plague was terrifying. The local priests preached repentance and claimed it was a cleansing.
Walters presented an interesting tale that not only highlighted the bleak, often dark aspects of this plague that ravished over twenty million people. We as the reader bear witness to the things that happen under this isolated roof. Twists and developments kept me engaged.
Walters sheds light on the inequality of the period, not just for women, but for serfs, the ruling class and everyone in-between. Lady Anne was an extraordinarily strong woman was ahead of her time and well learned. How she came to be married to such a heinous creature is an atrocity but if you ask the serfs of Develish, they would say it was a blessing.
I loved all the tidbits from hierarchy to how the plague spread. It was fascinating to witness the changes within the manor as food shortages began and key characters worked to undermine Lady Anne.
The characters were unique, developed and truly propelled this story. Gyles, Thaddeus and Isabelle were among my favorite characters. Walters did an excellent job of endearing key characters and allowing me to despise others. A few turns of events surprised me and look forward to returning to the manor.
One cannot deny the research that must have gone into the creating of this tale I believe it is the first in a three book trilogy. While some, may find these tidbits of information boring, I devour them and appreciated the attention to detail. The setting relied heavily on the characters to move the plot forward but it was executed brilliantly and without informational dumps.
This ends on a cliffhanger, it isn’t bad but enough I am eager to see what happens. The second book, The Turn of Midnight, is due out in March 2019. Fans of rich historical fiction and character driven novels will find The Last Hours an engaging, brilliantly written tale.
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