Rosamund Lupton has always been one of my favourite authors. From the moment I began reading her debut novel, Sister, I was drawn in and so happy – a new author who completely had me hooked. It has been several years since Rosamund’s last novel was published so when I received an exclusive proof copy of Three Hours, her latest book, I was incredibly excited; this long-awaited book was finally in my hands!
There is always that question at the back of your mind when you love an author’s work and have been counting down to being able to read another of their novels; will this be worth the wait? Will it be as absorbing as their previous books? Will it stay with me afterwards like Sister, Afterwards and The Quality of Silence did?
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. So many different aspects of this book will stay with me forever; from its articulated writing, the incredible characters, the tension and atmosphere to the important messages within this story.
Lupton has an incredible ability to create atmosphere and a cold, chilling tension which slowly builds until you are so gripped that you cannot put the book down and, when you absolutely HAVE to close the book, the words are still dancing around your head, the characters still calling to you to finish the story.
Three Hours is about a school under siege. Gunmen pacing the corridors, children hiding underneath desks. Teachers torn between safety, saving children and advice from police. Police and counter-terror officers working behind the scenes, trying to get a step ahead of the terrorists. Parents waiting outside for news, imagining what their children are going through, hoping they are safe.
As the pages turn, the minutes tick by of the siege. It is told almost in real-time which is incredibly effective. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story which is told in this manner. It draws you in, absorbs you into the story, into the heartbeats of the characters. This was such an effective way of telling the story as it meant the tension felt real, it built up, leaving chills (was this caused by the snow falling within the story, or the fear for the characters? Or both? Whichever, it is incredibly orchestrated by the author!).
There were lots of characters within this story, at first I wondered how I would keep up with them all, how they all linked, but, because the action within this book was constant, there wasn’t actually time to forget who was who or wonder how they linked, instead I was too busy wanting the police to step in, to find out what the plan was and to save the children. Having so many characters – various children in different settings, a parent waiting, a teacher hiding, police on the outside – meant that you get a real sense of the place, of the school. It painted a picture of the entire scenario and, when there was a tiny lapse in action, my mind began to wonder; what would I be like as a parent under that worry? What would I have been like as a child? What would the teachers do in our own school in that scenario?
The story is frighteningly real and the author weaves into the story the way people can become radicalised, warns us almost of believing the headlines, of being drawn in by the hate we read on social media. She even brings Donald Trump’s tweets into consideration and shows just how dangerous and powerful it can be for a world leader to make such far-fetched statements. Because the story is so real, it creates that chill, that fear.
But not just that, plenty of novels are out there on the shelves which are based on real events, but only a very few cause the hairs on the back of your neck to raise, cause you to question yourself as a parent, leave the characters’ within you after you finish the book. And this is down to the author, their ability to tell a powerful story. Three Hours is so cleverly written with such passion and emotion, that, combined with the real-life factor this book has, you are fully immersed.
I really liked how this story opened my eyes to a lot of the headlines. We have seen immigrants sailing into safer countries, hiding in camps whilst trying to flee, we’ve seen newspaper articles about them but this story brings them to life. It humanises them, tells of how one of the main character’s fled his country to safety and, whilst it made me really love the character and want him to survive, it also made me think about the ‘real world’ and the real immigrants just like him. It also made me think about other things too – the parent of one of the gunmen, how it must feel to know that that is your child who is inflicting power, how you may reflect back upon your parenting and wonder if there was something you could have changed…
This novel is gripping but also deeply emotional and insightful. The links to the play Macbeth, the sinister happenings within the dark web, the impact newspaper headlines can have, love between teenagers which feels so very intense that it can keep you going in the darkest of places, love for family, friends, teachers, pupils… so many different themes woven perfectly into Three Hours make this my favourite read of the year.
I just know that this book will stay with me and that it will stay with many others too and I am very excited to be able to interview Rosamund in a few weeks and will be featuring the interview on my blog -but just what to say to an author who has held your heart in her hands for all 305 pages of her book?!
Three Hours is published in January by Penguin and will take your breath away.