The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

powerful | compelling | emotive


what it says on the cover …


A small town divided by prejudice. A secret that won’t remain silent…

1965. A young white female student becomes involved in the fight for civil rights in North Carolina, falling in love with one of her fellow activists, a Black man, in a time and place where an interracial relationship must be hidden from family, friends and especially the reemerging Ku Klux Klan. As tensions rise in the town, she realises not everyone is who they appear to be.

2010. A recently widowed architect moves into the home she and her late husband designed, heartbroken that he will never cross the threshold. But when disturbing things begin to happen, it’s clear that someone is sending her a warning. Who is trying to frighten her away, and why?

Decades later, past and present are set to collide in the last house on the street…


PUBLISHED: 20th January 2022
SHELF: Historical Fiction | Suspense | Mystery
AUTHOR: Diane Chamberlain
PUBLISHER: Headline
FORMATS: Hardback | Paperback | Kindle | AudioBook


Thank you to @RosieMargesson  for sending me an advance proof copy of #LastHouseBook #TheLastHouseOnTheStreet by @D_Chamberlain (published by @headlinepg) #SmallTownSecrets


my review


Usually, it’s during the early chapters of a book when I make notes about it, ready to write my review … but unusually, I was almost at the halfway point of The Last House on the Street before realising I’d not jotted a single thing down.  I’m no writer, but I imagine the opening chapters of any book must be among the most involving and intensive for their authors.  These are the passages where scenes have to be so inviting they draw the reader into the pages with a disarming immediacy, and where the characters need to make an impression, for better or worse, that intrigues and grasps the readers.  To find myself at page 149 without a single scribble in my notebook is – as if I needed convincing – a sure sign that I’ve been irretrievably hooked by this story.

Arguably, I wouldn’t need to write notes if I were a speedy reader.  But I’m absolutely not! I prefer to spend time lost in the pages of my latest read, immersing myself with a reverent respect amongst the words and phrases its author has poured so much time and attention into.  And when I find myself reading books such as this one, I couldn’t be happier at my steadfast stubbornness to hold true to my slowworm-bookworm tenancies.  This is a novel that demands and deserves every ounce of your attention.  The storytelling is sublime, the word-craft is truly absorbing, the characters captured and held my interest, and the factual basis at the beating heart of this novel is breathtaking, harrowing, and acutely significant.

The Last House on the Street is both contemporary thriller and historical fiction, with the American Civil Rights Movement forming the common thread tying the 2010 and 1965 storylines together. What’s remarkable is that whilst this book centres on an extremely difficult subject, but it’s been handled with astute sensitivity. Perspectives and opinions so alien and unacceptable have been carefully portrayed alongside the atrocities and raw human emotions of a time when African Americans were subjected to discrimination and sustained violence by white supremacists, especially in the South where this book is set.

Whilst there is a compassionate tone to this sobering story, the book’s very first chapter arrives with imminent threat. In Kayla’s present day chapters, secrecy, threats, and ghost stories create the exquisite tension beloved by fans of contemporary psychological thrillers. And every bit as captivating are the interwoven historical fiction chapters rippling with menace and danger. Both story lines play to my absolute favourite book genres, so finding them both complementing each other so perfectly in one book made me a very happy reader indeed. 

At first I was drawn more strongly to the bold and enlightened promise of Ellie’s 1965 account, but as the book progressed and Kayla’s character and plot developed, I found myself relishing every moment of each storyline.  Both the lead characters, and those they held most dearly, were beautifully and vividly written; I felt I was walking in their shoes, or by their sides at the very least. Ellie’s 1965 chapters were a powder-keg cocktail of optimism and dread, with the terrifying sense of very real danger almost undermining the gently tender moments of fledgling, ill-fated love. Meanwhile, the goosebumps elicited by Kayla’s footsteps unconsciously walking amongst the shadowy secrets of a past long buried, can only be likened to that feeling of someone walking over your grave.

I defy any reader not be profoundly moved by the oppression, cruelty and injustice so intelligently portrayed by the author. Her depiction of the racist views and segregation are shocking not only in their clarity, but for the very fact the events they’re based on are less than sixty years old. Perhaps even more unsettling are the way this story encourages its readers to consider the present day; how much has changed, and how much has become insidiously entrenched.

Yes, The Last House on the Street has an important and weighty story to tell, but by enveloping it within a contemporary suspense-thriller, the author has propelled this novel into captivating mainstream reading. I almost dare’t say it, but it was a wholly enjoyable and unputdownable read – these feel like two such frivolous terms to use for a novel with such a powerful heart. It’s a rich, deeply moving, and chokingly dramatic truth beautifully written into a propulsive and twisting modern-day thriller.

 

DIRECT PURCHASE LINKS
bookshop.org | waterstones.com | amazon.co.uk


author bio


photo from dianechamberlain.com

Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and (London) Sunday Times best-selling author of 27 novels. The daughter of a school principal who supplied her with a new book almost daily, Diane quickly learned the emotional power of story. Although she wrote many small “books” as a child, she didn’t seriously turn to writing fiction until her early thirties when she was waiting for a delayed doctor’s appointment with nothing more than a pad, a pen, and an idea. She was instantly hooked. 

Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and lived for many years in both San Diego and northern Virginia. She received her master’s degree in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, she was a hospital social worker in both San Diego and Washington, D.C, and a psychotherapist in private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, working primarily with adolescents. 

More than two decades ago, Diane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which changed the way she works: She wrote two novels using voice recognition software before new medication allowed her to get back to typing. She feels fortunate that her arthritis is not more severe and that she’s able to enjoy everyday activities as well as keep up with a busy travel schedule.

Diane lives in North Carolina with her significant other, photographer John Pagliuca, and their odd but lovable Shetland Sheepdog, Cole

(biography text from Diane’s GoodRead’s profile)



5 thoughts on “The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

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