Date: 29th October 2020 Paperback
Wow! I sat and read this book in two days straight because I had to know what happened to everyone. The book is so relevant to today’s world in terms of politics and is just so gripping. Lupton manages to combine contemporary use of the internet, geographical shifts and the refugee crisis, the phenomenon of High School massacres like Columbine all together in an incredibly humane, but terrifying novel. It poses the question of how we combat terrorism when today’s terrorist looks just like us? In fact, how do we combat terror when we know the terrorist?
In the space of three hours a remote school is thrown into panic and terror. A homemade lunchbox bomb is found in the woods by one of the pupils. It might have been dismissed as a prank by most kids, but Rafi Bukhari escaped Syria with his little brother Basi, and he takes it very seriously. In a matter of half an hour the first police officer on scene is shot at and the site is under siege. In the Old School, Rafi’s girlfriend Hannah is with a group in the library caring for their wounded headmaster. Pottery teacher Camille is stranded in the studio with only a few rows of clay tiles and some glass between a class of seven year olds and an automatic weapon. Further back, a group are rehearsing Macbeth in the woodland theatre and the junior school is being evacuated down to the beach. Rafi settles his brother with the teacher, they both have PTSD and he vowed not to leave him, but at least he knows Basi is safe. Now he needs to get to Hannah. However, Basi has ideas of his own.
I really enjoyed the varied perspectives of this novel from the kids, teachers, police, and even the parents of the shooters. Beth Alton’s train of thought is brilliant, from assurances that her Jamie could not possibly be responsible to the thought that he’s already dead to her, from the minute he picked up the gun. The investigation and drip feed of new information is very well done and it’s obvious the author has researched well. The flashbacks of the Syrian boys are equally well placed and effective. I found the allusions to the kid’s performance of Macbeth great at first – the idea of using Syria as a backdrop and the witches as balaclava clad terrorists is clever. I must admit to being surprised with this aspect of the ending, which I won’t spoil, but suffice to say it had a very fantastical feel. This was an atmospheric, timely and intelligent book, that asked some of the big questions about how the world is now, especially pertinent in a week of terror attacks in France. It is also a great thriller that keeps the reader hooked and doesn’t let go till the final seconds.
Meet The Author
Rosamund Lupton’s debut novel ‘Sister’, was a BBC Radio 4 “Book at Bedtime”, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, winner of the Strand Magazine critics award and the Richard and Judy Bookclub Readers’ Choice Award. Her next two books ‘Afterwards’ and ‘The Quality of Silence’ were Sunday Times bestsellers. Her books have been published in over thirty languages.