Local Bookclub read

The Last Hours - Minette Walters
Walters’ historical novel is a stunning look at how people reacted when the Black Death came to town. Or came to country and tried to come to town, but you burned down the bridge and kept away anyone who looked sick.

There is historic precedent for a similar story – see the village of Eyam in Derbyshire.
In terms of the fear of people living at the time, Walters does a very good job. The change in society – the rebellion of the serfs – is well played as well.

However, the characters are either good or evil, with no real in between. For instance, there is Lady Anne, who might be a bit more educated and opened minded than women of the time usually were, but Walters gives her a believable back story. Yet, she is too perfect while her husband is too evil. Anne’s reactions and ability to foretell how the ending confrontation would play are true, and not surprising, but one does want her to be wrong, to not be so perfect and modern in her political thoughts.

Furthermore, Lady Anne is the only good woman of note (a woman who has more than a handful of lines). Most of the other movers and shakers are men. The only other woman who has more than a handful of lines, is the villain of the story. Whereas with the men you have several who perform heroic roles. While this, at least in the terms of movement of events, might be historical true, it does make the novel a bit uneven in character usage.

Yet, the setting and fear are stunningly conveyed in the story.