Last year we were honoured to read The Silent Hours by Cesca Major - a touching and fitting memorial to events in 1940s France. Today we review her latest novel - The Last Night.
As with her previous book, this is based on a true story - this time, 1950s Cornwall. And, like her last book, this one tells the story across two different time points - the 1950s and modern day.
In 1952, Abigail leaves Bristol whilst mourning her mother's passing. With nowhere to go but her sister's home, she goes to spend time with the only family she has left, but who she barely knows. In the weeks and months that follow we discover what the family home is like, we learn more about Abigail and her sister, and their interactions in the bustling coastal villages.
In 2016, Irina starts to restore an old bureau for a client. As she finds hidden artefacts and clues about the history of the furniture and its previous owner, she becomes drawn in to the tale from 1952 as she tries to uncover what happened, to whom, and why.
The two timepoints are linked by a supernatural event. I'm not usually a fan of supernatural happenings in novels, but this worked well as a device - not overly dramatic, but a key to pulling the two stories together.
This is a beautifully written book. I won't give anything away here, but I urge you not to read the historical note at the end of the book until you have finished the novel. As with her previous work, Cesca thoughtfully gives details there that help bring the truth behind the tale to life.
For me, this book is about relationships. Between Abigail and her sister, her brother-in-law and with Richard. And between Irina, her mother, and her one-time partner Andrew. Both of the leading ladies have secrets, past lives and hidden hurts. The stories develop and we learn more about their personal histories, and the welcome catharsis that ensues as they share their hurts. The leading men in the stories show incredible restraint and understanding, and the positive outcomes that take place or are hinted at offer hope of new beginnings and fresh starts.
We know from the start that something bad has happened, and the two stories draw us ever closer to that tragic event. Yet despite that, this book is remarkably uplifting.
I really enjoyed this book - the interleaving of two stories, the link across the decades, and the insight into the human condition. This is another brilliant book, and a beautiful and moving response to the events of 1952.
Again, not giving anything away - the part that really struck me was the reaction of Abigail's sister towards the end of the book. She knew and understood. And despite the effect on her personally, she chose the most incredible and selfless reaction, one which would remain with her for the rest of her life.
The Last Night is available from Atlantic Books, and I encourage you to go and find a copy for yourself. I'm looking forward to seeing what Cesca Major has up her sleeve for her next novel!
Disclosure: Atlantic Books sent me this book to keep for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own.