sharp | emotional | a tad terrifying!
what it says on the cover …
It’s December 2023 and the world as we know it has ended.
The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM (‘Six Days Maximum’ – the longest you’ve got before your body destroys itself).
But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own.
Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth.
And with no one else to live for, who will she become now that she’s completely alone?
PUBLISHED: 4th February 2021
SHELF: Contemporary Fiction | Suspense
AUTHOR: Bethany Clift
PUBLISHER: Hodder & Stoughton
FORMATS: Hardback | Kindle | AudioBook
Thank you to @kimberleyatkins for sending me a signed hardback copy of #LastOneAtTheParty by @Beth_Clift (published by @HodderBooks)
my review …
This is a book review that I feel I have to start with a warning – do not start reading this book if you have essential things to do or places you have to go; all other commitments can wait and dates rearranged. If you have friends who will be understanding when you bin them off, then it’s safe to proceed. Surround yourself with snacks and all necessary survival items and settle in for an absolute belter of a read! You will find yourself snarling at all and any interruptions, no matter how cute or well intentioned, and any time you (reluctantly) spend away from your copy of Last One At The Party, I guarantee your mind will be elsewhere.
The virus in the book has been called 6DM (six days maximum … that’s your life expectancy from the moment of your first sneeze). It’s torn through the world’s population mercilessly and without prejudice leaving, as far as we know, just one woman alive to tell the tale. Last One at the Party is this woman’s diary, detailing the first days of the outbreak and spanning the following nine months. Her account pulls no punches and is, by turns, terrifying and unsettlingly informative … I lost count of the occasions I found myself wondering what would I do…? and what if…? Whilst this is a fiction novel, it does rather push your imagination to flirt with the unpalatable, whilst at the very same time making you so flippin’ grateful for everything you’ve got and every metaphorical bullet you’ve dodged.
To all intents and purposes there is only one voice telling this story. She tells us what she eats and drinks, what she likes and learns. She tells us about her troubled marriage to James, about her best friends Xav and Ginny, about her varied career, her personal life, and her utterly lovely parents. She’s charmingly self-effacing with no false vanity about hiding her depression and panic attacks. She’s bright and witty, chaotic, and at times deeply infuriating. It felt like the world’s most brutal reincarnation of the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme; all about survival and self-discovery, and although I could never have imagined her muddling through for a week, especially once she left London, it was truly absorbing and heartening to see how she grew and flourished. Her writing is deeply personal and elicits a closeness and familiarity … but I never learned her name. And I can’t help feeling she’s a woman who really deserves a name … for the record.
Every single part of Last One at the Party feels uncomfortably real and it didn’t take much to image myself in this position. That made this an outrageously addictive (safe) adventure, but it also made the latter days in dead London graphically gruesome. When she finally discovered the joys of a Go Outdoors store in Northampton I realised it was the first time in 137 pages that I started to relax. Not even the coke-fuelled, tramadol-cushioned, disco-for-one days in Xav’s London mansion felt this good. This space to breathe deeply was all too fleeting, however, and in no time at all I’m dragged at break neck pace into the next stage of her road trip to Scotland in search of signs of life.
Last One at the Party is an outrageously addictive debut. The writing flows all too compulsively and creates an immediate familiarity with and empathy for the main character. Yes it’s lonely and sad, precarious and nail-biting, and downright terrifying (many a time I offered up a silent thanks that the publishers didn’t chose this moment to experiment with scratch-and-sniff books), but there are barbs of dark humour that puncture any lingering maudlin moments. The story is relentlessly pacy and carries you inexorably towards its truly breathtaking ending. Latterly, the diary chapters become interrupted by transcripts from a dictaphone recording, and its final transcript was knife-edge storytelling of the very best kind. The ending is deliberately neither neat nor tidy, which means the punch it packs is almighty, hopeful and optimistic.
In case you couldn’t tell, I absolutely loved Last One at the Party! There was a huge amount of chatter about it in #booktwitter when it was first published, and now I can see what the fuss was all about. Every single word of praise and recommendation reflects my own. My advice … get your hands on a copy. Now!
Bethany Clift is a graduate of the Northern Film School, the producer of low-budget British horror film Heretic, and the Director of her own production company, Saber Productions. Last One At The Party is her debut novel.
(photo and biography text from Bethany’s GoodRead’s profile)