Title: The Last Hundred Days
Author: Patrick McGuinness
Publication Date: 22nd May 2012
Format: E-Book - PDF
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Once the gleaming "Paris of the East," Bucharest in 1989 is a world of corruption and paranoia, in thrall to the repressive regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. Old landmarks are falling to demolition crews, grocery shelves are empty, and informants are everywhere. Into this state of crisis, a young British man arrives to take a university post he never interviewed for. He is taken under the wing of Leo O’Heix, a colleague and master of the black market, and falls for the sleek Celia, daughter of a party apparatchik. Yet he soon learns that in this society, friendships are compromised, and loyalty is never absolute. And as the regime’s authority falters, he finds himself uncomfortably, then dangerously, close to the eye of the storm. (Goodreads Synopsis)
Romania is one of those countries that has always held a fascination for me and one I hope to visit some day. That said, I know very little of its history and so this book was a real eye-opener for me.
Right from the first page, I was drawn into life in late twentieth century Romania. McGuinness' prose is wonderfully descriptive and full of the sights and sounds (and even the smells) of the place, creating a realistic and fascinating setting.
The hero of the tale is very likeable, if naive and flawed, and he is a character the reader is happy to accompany on this journey as he tries to adjust to life in Bucharest and learns how to deal with its people. The supporting cast come across equally well; every one of them is memorable and 'alive'.
This is a fairly 'literary' piece with a number of references to literature and history throughout, but it is also a gripping story of life under a dictatorship on the brink of collapse. This is a book that will appeal to literary fiction fans and also those interested in Eastern Europe during the twentieth century - an intriguing read.