Friday 6 December 2019

Review by Jeannette Flannery of “The Last of Us” by Harriet Cummings

The Last of Us tells the story of 82-year-old Nettie, a lonely widow whose memory is not as vivid as it once was. Ostracised by her neighbours, taunted by local children and estranged from her only daughter Catherine, Nettie enters the story as a sympathetic figure.

But when young handyman James arrives in the village Nettie is thrilled to discover he is an old friend of her daughter and the two of them quickly build an unlikely friendship. As James begins to question Nettie about her past, Nettie begins to remember treasured memories of her husband Harold, as well as memories she’d rather forget. James, much like the reader begins to wonder if Nettie is really a harmless old lady or if there could be truth in the rumours circulating about her around the village.

Harriet Cummings is an accomplished writer of the domestic mystery novel. Here, as in her first novel, We All Begin as Strangers, secrets simmer under the surface of an idyllic village. The reader experiences Nettie’s nostalgic memories for themselves in the tiny details; the music and miniskirts of the swinging sixties; Harold’s garish red Ford Cortina of the seventies. 

The sights and sounds as we travel with Nettie through scenes of her past are vivid but as the reader learns more about Nettie, we too begin to question her version of events. What really happened to Harold? Why doesn’t her own daughter want to talk to her? How much of what she remembers is the truth?

The Last of Us is a heartfelt exploration of loneliness, ageing and complicated family relationships: a slow burning novel where tension builds to a final devastating climax. I found the character of Nettie stayed with me long after I had turned the final page.

About the Reviewer
Jeanette Flannery is a writer of fiction for young adults. She loves all things Japanese and lives in the midlands with her partner and a pair of mischievous kittens.

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