The Last Hours by Minette Walters

The Last Hours

For most, the Black Death is the end. For a brave few, it heralds a new beginning. When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire 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 religious fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is...

Title:The Last Hours
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Last Hours Reviews

  • Marianne

    The Last Hours is the eighteenth novel by British author, Minette Walters, and is a departure from her usual genre of crime/psychological thriller: this one is historical fiction. It’s June 1348, and the Plague has just arrived in England. The population is completely unprepared for the devastation this disease will wreak, but a scant few demesnes are better equipped to handle it than most. A Saxon, Lady Anne of Develish in Dorsetshire was raised by nuns; she has been quietly running the demesne

    The Last Hours is the eighteenth novel by British author, Minette Walters, and is a departure from her usual genre of crime/psychological thriller: this one is historical fiction. It’s June 1348, and the Plague has just arrived in England. The population is completely unprepared for the devastation this disease will wreak, but a scant few demesnes are better equipped to handle it than most. A Saxon, Lady Anne of Develish in Dorsetshire was raised by nuns; she has been quietly running the demesne in an efficient and compassionate way underneath the radar of her cruel Norman husband.

    Sir Richard of Develish departs for another demesne to set up his spoilt fourteen-year-old daughter in an advantageous marriage but Gyles Startout, Anne’s informant in Richard’s retinue, soon realises there is a sickness afflicting the nearby village. Potent and virulent, it appears to be something that kills quickly with few survivors. By the time Sir Richard decides to return to Develish, its already too late for many of his party.

    In response to an announcement from the Bishop of Sarum regarding “A Black Death”, Anne takes the unconventional step of bringing the demesne’s bondsmen to live on the land contained within the moat that Sir Richard had, in his vanity, built as a folly. Her plan to isolate them from the rest of the population is a revolutionary measure that proves to be the salvation of Develish and its serfs.

    On her husband’s return, she insists on his party being quarantined, a move that angers young Lady Eleanor and also attracts censure from Hugh de Courtesmain, Sir Richard’s Norman steward. As does her later appointment of a serf as Steward. Thus they survive, free of the pestilence, for some months, but how long will they last on the food they have stored? And how will they avoid attack from raiding parties? Then a teenaged boy dies, and Anne’s steward takes drastic action.

    Walters gives the reader a fascinating look into the mid-fourteenth Century, bringing history to life in what is obviously the product of extensive research. Her characters are complex, human and flawed. They have secrets and doubts and weaknesses and their actions result in plenty of intrigue. Walters explores not just the ordeal of surviving the plague, but also, surviving in a world drastically changed, with a population so severely depleted that the very dynamic between serf and master is altered.

    While is does not exactly end in a cliff-hanger, there are several matters left unresolved by the final twists, and the last pages reveal that there will be a sequel, which is unfortunately not slated for publication until October 2018, so readers have to wait a year to learn the further fates of Anne and Gyles and Thaddeus and Isabella. Walters has proven without any shadow of doubt that she has much more than one string to her bow. A brilliant read.

  • Brenda

    June 1348, and Sir Richard and his entourage were away from their home of Develish when the Black Death struck – thought to be brought to England’s shores by sailors, it was an enemy no one knew how to combat. But Sir Richard’s wife, Lady Anne, had her own thoughts – reared by nuns, she knew to isolate the sick from the well, and she set to close their community off to anyone travelling past; even her own husband and his men were stopped from entering.

    The moat enclosed the manor house with both

    June 1348, and Sir Richard and his entourage were away from their home of Develish when the Black Death struck – thought to be brought to England’s shores by sailors, it was an enemy no one knew how to combat. But Sir Richard’s wife, Lady Anne, had her own thoughts – reared by nuns, she knew to isolate the sick from the well, and she set to close their community off to anyone travelling past; even her own husband and his men were stopped from entering.

    The moat enclosed the manor house with both serfs plus Lady Anne and her daughter Eleanor inside. Thaddeus became Lady Anne’s right-hand man as both were literate where others were not. Lady Anne’s knowledge and way with words, her calm manner and serenity, kept her people happy and secure in a land filled with fear and terror.

    Even as the people of Develish remained healthy, their food stocks were running shockingly low. The continued guarding of the perimeter against bandits and concern for the future of the people had Thaddeus making the decision to discover what was happening outside their boundaries. Taking the young sons of the leading serfs of the village, he ventured forth – but would it be into the horrors of the pestilence - or worse? Lady Anne of Develish had many worries on her shoulders; her lack of knowledge of the outside world was one of them.

    by Minette Walters was a thoroughly enjoyable historical novel which shows the strength of some, and the lack of foresight of others. The cleverness and simple way of doing something which was quite obviously extremely difficult, not to mention traumatic, showed, especially in Lady Anne’s compassion and understanding of her serfs. Beautifully written,

    is one I highly recommend, and although I had no idea when I started this novel (all 555 pages of it!) that there is a sequel to follow in October 2018, I’m looking forward to continuing Lady Anne, Gyles and Thaddeus’ story.

    With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read and review.

  • Phrynne

    I have read quite a few books by

    , all of them dark, disturbing crime novels. I would rate her as one of my favourite crime writers and now she suddenly turns to Historical Fiction! But that's okay too because I like HF and Walters is a talented writer. She could probably write anything she chose.

    is unquestionably a good book. The period in England surrounding the Black Death is always interesting (try

    by

    ) and Walters wrings it for every

    I have read quite a few books by

    , all of them dark, disturbing crime novels. I would rate her as one of my favourite crime writers and now she suddenly turns to Historical Fiction! But that's okay too because I like HF and Walters is a talented writer. She could probably write anything she chose.

    is unquestionably a good book. The period in England surrounding the Black Death is always interesting (try

    by

    ) and Walters wrings it for every drop of blood and gore, probably due to her more normal fare of crime writing. The best feature of the book is its characters. They are well rounded and realistic and eventually the reader comes to really care what happens to these people, especially Lady Anne and Thaddeus.

    The author must have done a huge amount of research to produce 555 pages of intensely readable fiction. I enjoyed it very much indeed but found the ending odd. It appears we will be continuing the story of the people of Develish in 2018 - apparently a duology, if not maybe even a series! I was surprised but not in a bad way.

  • Susan

    “A Black Death has fallen upon our land…”

    I have never read anything by Minette Walters before, but am aware she is best known for writing crime novels. As such, this is something of a change for her, being historical fiction. In fact, in a way, this is almost a modern dystopian novel, set in the historical setting of 1348 amidst the sweeping plague of the Black Death.

    It is set around the household of Sir Richard of Develish, who, when we meet him, is preparing to travel to visit Bradmayne in Do

    “A Black Death has fallen upon our land…”

    I have never read anything by Minette Walters before, but am aware she is best known for writing crime novels. As such, this is something of a change for her, being historical fiction. In fact, in a way, this is almost a modern dystopian novel, set in the historical setting of 1348 amidst the sweeping plague of the Black Death.

    It is set around the household of Sir Richard of Develish, who, when we meet him, is preparing to travel to visit Bradmayne in Dorsetshire, to seal the marriage of his fourteen year old daughter, Eleanor, with Peter of Bradmayne. It is fair to say that Eleanor is not much enthralled by the thought of her marriage – in fact, the spoilt, vicious and supremely unlikeable Eleanor, is never pleased by much at all. While the convent raised Lady Anne believes in duty and education, Eleanor thinks only of herself and idolises her brutish father.

    Lady Anne has no love for her husband and has given him no heir. Mostly, she avoids him as much as possible; using her keen intelligence to help protect the serfs, to teach them to read and to educate them about rudimentary health care. This means that, although the serfs fear Sir Richard, they respect, and trust in, Lady Anne deeply. So, when Lord Richard and his party encounter the plague on their trip, it means the villagers follow Lady Anne’s plan to isolate the people and keep them safe from the plague.

    What follows is a fascinating look at a community, with many characters at odds with each other, isolated in a land teeming with death. There are personal animosities, the tension between Normans and Saxons, the role of the Church, the enlightened Lady Anne set against the fear, ignorance and superstitions of the time and many secrets, which emerge over time. There is also a great depiction of a society which falls apart, as plague lays waste to the countryside. There is obviously, at least one more book planned, as a sequel to this one and so this novel has no definite ending. However, it is certainly a very interesting read, with some excellent characters and a great sense of place. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  • Trudie

    I am starting and flinging away books like a crazy person right now. Millennial pop culture memoir - gone. Giant doorstopper about the Black Death, closed with a hefty sigh and frown. Has my reading radar gone on the fritz ? am I trying too hard to take a break from capital L literary fiction ? I don't know whatever it is, its not working out !

    This should have been good, I did really want to read a kind of medieval dystopia with boils but historical fiction is a dicey proposition and this one ha

    I am starting and flinging away books like a crazy person right now. Millennial pop culture memoir - gone. Giant doorstopper about the Black Death, closed with a hefty sigh and frown. Has my reading radar gone on the fritz ? am I trying too hard to take a break from capital L literary fiction ? I don't know whatever it is, its not working out !

    This should have been good, I did really want to read a kind of medieval dystopia with boils but historical fiction is a dicey proposition and this one had anachronisms galore, two dimensional characters but worse even than those sins, it was boring. Unforgivable for a book I was treating as a mildly diverting historical romp.

    Hilary Mantel maybe you could step in here, or you know hurry up and finish

  • Sara

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    In The Last Hours we find ourselves in the village of Melcombe, Dorset 1348. The Black Death has taken Britain, and all - old or young, rich or poor, are subject to its whim. Many believe it is a curse sent from God, but Lady Anne has other ideas. Raised by nuns, she has the foresight that could save her household - by barring the door to the sick and isolating them from everyone else. But how long can the survivors stay isolated wh

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    In The Last Hours we find ourselves in the village of Melcombe, Dorset 1348. The Black Death has taken Britain, and all - old or young, rich or poor, are subject to its whim. Many believe it is a curse sent from God, but Lady Anne has other ideas. Raised by nuns, she has the foresight that could save her household - by barring the door to the sick and isolating them from everyone else. But how long can the survivors stay isolated when food stock dwindles and tempers fray?

    This is such a well researched novel, of an extremely compelling period in history. The author has clearly done her homework and this shines through. It's incredibly detailed in its description of the infrastructure and hierarchy present at this time, from the gentry to the working serfs - which is invaluable information as the story progresses. It has left me desperately seeking out more information with regards to this part of British history I have little previous experience of.

    The characters are also wonderfully complex. Lady Anne. our leading lady, defies her station and her upbringing to befriend the serfs of her lands - teaching them to read and treating them as something other than slaves. Because of this they have a deep sense of loyal towards her, and she has a deeper understand of their plight. This leads to Lady Anne having an innate need to protect them and help them when the plague comes, bringing them into her fold within her home. Eleanor her daughter. by comparison is volatile and self centered. Similar in nature to her father, a brute who Lady Anne does not love or respect. As the story progresses we see Eleanor descend into madness as a mirror to Lady Anne's unbreakable will to survive.

    This is really an intimate look at an almost apocalyptic society, as social constraints fall away within such a confined space. Paranoia and mistrust run rampant, and we see these characters forced to come to terms with each other. and share everything they have. The tension at times is palpable. I enjoyed the section where a 'party' goes out beyond the walls of their sanctuary in search of other survivors and food, as the serfs realise that such a catastrophe could actually lead to their freedom. It was a real turning point in the novel.

    My only real issue with this was the pacing. It was incredibly slow at times, and as such it took me a long time to get through this as I got distracted and yearned for a little 'action'. At times I was desperate to know what was going on outside of the walls out characters were confined by, and I struggled to keep reading. This is at heart a character novel. The characters define this world and compel the story along. I just wish the editing at times could have been a bit more cut throat.

  • Maureen

    It's the year 1348, and the little port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire will become known as the place where the sickness 'The Black Death' began.

    No one knows the reason for this sickness, how and why it spread so quickly or why it killed so many. The church is happy to preach that God is the reason behind it - that it's a punishment for sins and wickedness.

    Lady Anne of Develish thinks differently, she is something of a rare female in this period in history, in that she is well educated, astute, and

    It's the year 1348, and the little port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire will become known as the place where the sickness 'The Black Death' began.

    No one knows the reason for this sickness, how and why it spread so quickly or why it killed so many. The church is happy to preach that God is the reason behind it - that it's a punishment for sins and wickedness.

    Lady Anne of Develish thinks differently, she is something of a rare female in this period in history, in that she is well educated, astute, and completely literate, something which her husband Sir Richard is not! He is not only illiterate, but he's also a brute of a man.

    Sir Richard is away seeking a husband for their daughter Eleanor (A whole book could be written about Eleanor - sadistic, spoilt, petulant, you get the picture - very much her father's daughter). Whilst he's away, news arrives of the pestilence that's spreading through the villages, one by one. Lady Anne isn't interested in people's confessions of sin and misdeeds, she believes the way to keep this dreaded sickness away from Develish is to isolate themselves from the rest of civilisation, combined with a strict level of hygiene. She gathers her people inside the moat surrounding the Manor House, and refuses entry to all, including her husband Sir Richard. However, in doing so, she makes an enemy of her daughter Eleanor, and nobody wants to make an enemy of Eleanor!

    This imposed isolation made for a compelling read, as the claustrophobic confines of the Manor House brought about all manner of madness and fear. Matters only got worse as the meagre rations of food became even more limited. Because of the geographical restraints of confinement within the boundaries of Develish,the storyline relies heavily on its characters to bring the story to life, and the author managed to carry this out particularly well with some truly memorable characters. She was at great pains to illustrate the inequality of this period, where serfs were of little value other than to work to their deaths, whilst the power of the ruling classes was paramount, and everything they surveyed was theirs for the taking.

    It was a story about the fragility of life, humility, and sharing with others regardless of class or status. Minette Walters has produced a very welcome addition to the historical fiction genre with this excellent book.

    *Thank you to Netgalley and Atlantic Books, Allen & Unwin for my ARC in exchange for an honest review*

  • Emma

    Well researched book set in the time of the Black Death of 1348 - it’s victims and survivors. This focuses more on the social shift, where peasants who survive begin to have more bargaining power as so many people die - a time where social status could change quite dramatically. I’ve read many stories set during this snapshot of British history and this one is pretty much on par.

    I felt the pace was quite slow in places, not too much of a story line beyond the Black Death and the character portra

    Well researched book set in the time of the Black Death of 1348 - it’s victims and survivors. This focuses more on the social shift, where peasants who survive begin to have more bargaining power as so many people die - a time where social status could change quite dramatically. I’ve read many stories set during this snapshot of British history and this one is pretty much on par.

    I felt the pace was quite slow in places, not too much of a story line beyond the Black Death and the character portrayal lacked any subtlety to my mind.

    Many thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book. All opinions are my own.

  • Rachel Hall

    The Last Hours served as both my introduction to the writing of Minette Walters and to the genre of historical fiction. As a reader of crime thrillers I was drawn by virtue of the authors reputation and that the novel is essentially a character driven examination of the new beginnings that the Black Death heralded for many. The pestilence did much more than simply claim the lives of swathes of men; it also created a series of religious, social and economic upheavals. None was more important than

    The Last Hours served as both my introduction to the writing of Minette Walters and to the genre of historical fiction. As a reader of crime thrillers I was drawn by virtue of the authors reputation and that the novel is essentially a character driven examination of the new beginnings that the Black Death heralded for many. The pestilence did much more than simply claim the lives of swathes of men; it also created a series of religious, social and economic upheavals. None was more important than that of bringing down the prevailing social hierarchy, handing bondsmen their freedom and putting a man’s destiny in his own hands. Indifferent to class distinctions, taking whomever it chose, the Black Death put lords on equal footing with serfs and along with peril came opportunity. This comprehensively researched novel adheres to the widely known facts of the pandemic but Minette Walters vividly brings the story to life by examining the profound effects on the lives of the inhabitants of Develish, Dorseteshire.

    When the Black Death entered England through the port of Melcombe, Dorseteshire in June 1348 little was known about the sickness or how it would transform the landscape. The third day of July, 1348 sees the imperious Sir Richard of Develish preparing to leave his demesne and travel to Bradmayne in the hope of securing a marriage for his petulant fourteen-year-old daughter, Lady Eleanor. Rumour has reached Develish that potential suitor, Lord Peter, has succumbed to the return of a childhood illness and with a dowry in tow, Sir Richard and his retinue depart. With no love lost for Sir Richard from either the two-hundred serfs tied to his fealty or from his intelligent and humane wife, Lady Anne, Develish exhales a collective sigh of relief as he leaves. More worthy than her husband in every sense, Lady Anne sees no distinction between serfs and lords and after being educated by nuns from the age of six she is both literate and conversant with the benefits of sanitation, treating and isolating the sick. Since her arrival at Develish as a fourteen-year-old girl she has steadily assumed the running of the demesne, all without the egotistical or lustful Sir Richard any the wiser. However, the altogether clearer sighted bondsmen are well aware and have been the direct beneficiaries of her efforts. Within Sir Richard’s retinue his wife has embedded her friend and ally, Gyles Startout, an elevated serf and a devoted man who is her eyes and ears on travels with her feckless husband.

    When Sir Richard returns early from his travels with news that Lord Peter is gripped by the pestilence, he himself is already ailing and to his fury Lady Anne makes the decision to exile him outside of the moat surrounding Develish. Whilst popular misconception and the uneducated see the sickness as a punishment for sins, readily subscribed to by dissolute priest Father Anselm, Lady Anne remains coolly sceptical. She is something of a heretic, who sees survival not through beseeching God but through isolating the sick, pooling resources and working together. Accepting the wrath of her spiteful daughter and with Sir Richard dead within days, the bondsmen of Develish readily look to Lady Anne who unites the demesne and abolishes the prevailing social order. Stepping up to the role of steward is base-born Thaddeus Thurkell, a swarthy looking giant pilloried by stepfather, Will, and inciting the fury of the poisonous Lady Eleanor for the scant attention he pays her. Short on words, his education and imposing physicality make him a natural choice for steward but few appreciate it at the time as Sir Richard’s steward, the meddling Master Hugh de Courtesmain is relieved of his position.

    As the months pass and food stores run low the enforced claustrophobia of Develish gives rise to petty gripes, infighting, boredom and madness in the case of Lady Eleanor. Frustrated by the lack of knowledge of the world outside Develish, it is Thaddeus Thurkell who sacrifices himself for Develish and Lady Anne and leads a ragtag group on a mission through the disseminated villages outside the demesne to secure provisions and bring news. What follows is an immersive account of the treacherous recce undertaken by Thaddeus weaved alongside the continuation of life in Develish. Darkly atmospheric, The Last Hours is infused with a sense of menace as tensions threaten to spoil over and fear runs rife at the future that lies ahead. Not only is Develish vividly drawn, but the ravaged villages beyond as Thaddeus and his gang are met by fetid corpses and rat infestations and in addition have their eyes opened to the potential for a future freed from and outside of the demesne of Develish.

    The Last Hours is a searing testimony to the courageous triumvirate (Lady Anne, Thaddeus Thurkell and Gyles Startout) who dedicate themselves unflaggingly to keeping the scourge outside of their confines. As the threesome go to increasing lengths to ensure the fragile accord holds Minette Walters gives life to a memorable cast, from churlish Lady Eleanor, shrewd Thaddeus who leads by example, the self-sacrificing Gyles Startout to the quiet sensibility and sharp wit of Lady Anne. Genuinely gripping this sprawling tale takes its readers to the beating heart of the community of Develish, and Walters draws many of the leading serfs and their families (Trueblood, Startout, Buckler, Catchpole) into the narrative, making the reader privy to every part of the drama. Full of intrigue The Last Hours succeeds in evoking one of the most perilous period in medieval history. With some of Lady Anne’s principal relationships given greater emphasis (Lady Eleanor and Thaddeus Thurkell), Walters succeeds in putting her character under the microscope and my admiration for a heroine, saviour and true leader of people goes unparalleled.

    Whilst Minette Walters could have opted for the altogether more people pleasing introduction of a romantic element into the denouement, she instead leaves her story rather open-ended for the monumentally more ambitious continuation of this saga and I shall be alongside the fellows of Develish every step of the way. An education in itself, I doubt I would have been so thoroughly held in thrall by a sterile recounting of the Black Death, but The Last Hours captures the very essence of the period in a fist pumping and expansive character led story of resilience and fortitude.

    With thanks to Readers First for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

  • Miriam Smith

    I've been a follower of Minette Walters' books for some time now and constantly enjoyed reading her many entertaining and intriguing novels. She has a unique writing style and I always loved how she incorporated newspaper/media articles into her many stories. Therefore I was very excited to hear she had written an historical fiction novel, as this has been a genre I've been more and more enjoying of late.

    Sadly, I was quite disappointed in 'The Last Hours' and ended up skipping some pages in ord

    I've been a follower of Minette Walters' books for some time now and constantly enjoyed reading her many entertaining and intriguing novels. She has a unique writing style and I always loved how she incorporated newspaper/media articles into her many stories. Therefore I was very excited to hear she had written an historical fiction novel, as this has been a genre I've been more and more enjoying of late.

    Sadly, I was quite disappointed in 'The Last Hours' and ended up skipping some pages in order to get to the end. I found it slow and dare I say boring? It's still expertly written as expected and Minette has chosen a very interesting time in history to write about but unfortunately it just didn't do it for me. There are some very strong characters throughout the story, I particularly liked Lady Anne and Thaddeus and all of the characters were well thought out and appropriate to the time setting of the book.

    I imagine a lot of research must have also been carried out about the Black Death and the fourteenth century in England and the author has done a really good job conveying all this into her story.

    Although not for me this time, I will continue to read books by Minette Walters in the future and I expect that this beautifully printed book will still be hugely popular and well liked and I wholeheartedly wish her every success with it.

    2.5 stars

Books Finder is in no way intended to support illegal activity. We uses Search API to find the overview of books over the internet, but we don't host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners, please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them. Read our DMCA Policies and Disclaimer for more details.