Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Last Hundred Days

Title: The Last Hundred Days

Author: Patrick McGuiness

Number of pages: 356

Started: 11 September 2011

Finished: 15 September 2011

Opening words:

In 1980s Romania, boredom was a state of extremity. There was nothing neutral about it: it strung you out and stretched you; it tugged away at the bottom of your day like shingle scraping at a boat’s hull. In theWest we’ve always thought of boredom as slack time, life’s lift music sliding off the ear. Totalitarian boredom is different. It’s a state of expectation already heavy with its own disappointment, the event and its anticipation braided together in a continuous loop of tension and anti-climax.

You can find the first chapter by following a link on this page.

Plot summary:

The socialist state is in crisis, the shops are empty and old Bucharest vanishes daily under the onslaught of Ceaucescu's demolition gangs. Paranoia is pervasive and secret service men lurk in the shadows. In The Last 100 Days, Patrick McGuinness creates an absorbing sense of time and place as the city struggles to survive this intense moment in history. He evokes a world of extremity and ravaged beauty from the viewpoint of an outsider uncomfortably, and often dangerously, close to the eye of the storm as the regime of 1980s Romania crumbles to a bloody end.

What I thought:

By the time I read this book, I was definitely suffering from “gate-fever”. This was the last of the Booker’s that I intended to read (as I had ruled out reading The Stranger’s Child due to bad reviews from others I knew who had read it) and I am not sure I really ended on a high.

I had slightly feared that this book might be a bit like reading an academic text pretending to be a work of fiction. But that certainly wasn’t the case. But still I found it somewhat dry. I also looked up one of the events it referred to, but it wasn’t actually true. This doesn’t mean that the whole book wasn’t true (or that works of fiction have to be accurate in their portrayal of real people and events), but it just didn’t sit well with me.

I thought this book had potential, but that it didn’t necessarily live up to it.

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