The Last Night by Cesca Major
|The Last Night by Cesca Major|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Jones|
|Summary: A dual-narrative story that centres around a village tragedy in 1952.|
|Buy? yes||Borrow? yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: November 2016|
|Publisher: Atlantic Books|
|External links: [cescamajor.com Author's website]|
Spring 1952: Two best friends; Abigail and Mary, sit together on a bench, looking out to sea. They have big plans, but know that whatever happens they will always be together. They dream of a new life in America, each with a handsome husband and a happy family. When Abigail's mother dies unexpectedly, however, she is sent to live with her estranged sister in Devon, and the friends are torn apart. Little does she realise that tragedy lies just around the corner, and that the last night will change everything forever. Decades later, in 2016, a shy furniture-restorer called Irina has been given an unusual commission: to restore an old bureau containing many hidden secrets. As the two stories merge, curious Irina tries to piece together exactly what happened on the Last Night.
Major's last book, The Silent Hours was one of my favourite books to review, and was so haunting that I am still emotionally moved by the story when I think about it. I was very excited when I learned that she had written another book, especially as it has been written in the same multiple-narrative style and, like The Silent Hours, is based on a real-life tragedy.
The author has a real skill in creating likeable and believable characters. Abigail was so sweet, kind and thoughtful that it was easy to empathise with her all the way through the story. Irina, our modern-day protagonist, is a deeper character, but just as interesting. We learn early on in the story that Irina and her family have a big secret that they do not talk about and that this has prevented her from forming close relationships with others. She also has a noticeable scar on her cheek, which makes her so self-conscious that she hides away from everyone in the little workroom where she restores furniture.
Major cleverly drip-feeds the plot points so that we are eager to keep turning the pages in search of answers. The prologue tells the story of a child discovering the washed-up body of an unknown woman. Who was the woman, and what happened to her? Irina is restoring a bureau that contains many significant items: postcards that were never sent, a railway ticket, a brooch and a feather. What is the significance if these items and why did the owner keep them hidden away? What is the secret that Irina cannot share, even with those closest to her? All slowly becomes clearer as the story hurtles towards its thrilling and emotionally charged finale. As the book is based on actual events, the final chapters are particularly poignant, especially the sections that were based on real people.
As much as I loved the book, I did have one problem with the storyline; the supernatural element. It was completely superfluous to the plot and added nothing to the storyline. In fact, I found the whole haunted bureau idea rather silly, as it wasn't approached with any kind of subtlety and several scenes were just too far-fetched to be credible. In my opinion, the book would have been much better without the haunting scenes as there was no real reason to include them.
Despite this, The Last Night is still another triumph for Cesca Major and just like her previous novel, I'm sure that the story will stay with me long after reading it. I can't wait to see what she writes next.
If you haven't read The Silent Hours, then you really should. It is an absorbing tale of life and loss in a French village in World War II, which stays in your head long after the book has been finished.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Night by Cesca Major at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Night by Cesca Major at Amazon.com.
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Neil Truby said:
Completely agree with Louise's opinion that the supernatural element added nothing and indeed detracted from an otherwise decent story.