The Last of Us by Rob Ewing
Publication date: 21 April 2016
Genre: Literary Fiction, General Ficiton (Adult)
Approximate reading time*: 4 hours, 40 mins
Published by: HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction
Available at: Amazon.co.uk, Goodreads
(*Reading time is based on the time it took me to read it.)
The island is quiet now.
On a remote Scottish island, five children are the only ones left. Since the Last Adult died, sensible Elizabeth has been the group leader, testing for a radio signal, playing teacher and keeping an eye on Alex, the littlest, whose insulin can only last so long.
There is ‘shopping’ to do in the houses they haven’t yet searched and wrong smells to avoid. For eight-year-old Rona each day brings fresh hope that someone will come back for them, tempered by the reality of their dwindling supplies.
With no adults to rebel against, squabbles threaten the fragile family they have formed. And when brothers Calum Ian and Duncan attempt to thwart Elizabeth’s leadership, it prompts a chain of events that will endanger Alex’s life and test them all in unimaginable ways.
Reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies and The Cement Garden, The Last of Us is a powerful and heartbreaking novel of aftershock, courage and survival.
This book is wonderfully unsettling.
I have seen a couple of reviews that complain that nothing really happens, or that the pace is slow and boring. For me, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This post-apocolyptic-style story is played out through diary-like accounts told by Rona. They jump around the timeline of events in a way that feels consistent with her loss of a sense of time, and her perception of the reality as she faces. Her eight-year-old comprehension is endearing, insightful, and never unrelatable.
All of the characters are vividly portrayed. They are not a group that would chose each other under normal circumstances, and their backgrounds and vastly different personalities cause immense friction.
As the story unfolded, I couldn’t help thinking that this group of kids, whilst behaving exactly as you would expect of children of their age, handle their bleak situation with much more civility and sense than many adults would. Perhaps this was part of the author’s decision to tell a disaster story through the eyes of children. (I think here of The Stand by Stephen King, and recall the violence, fear, and hatred that stood between the survivors and their future.)
It is hard to talk in much depth about the contents of the book without spoiling the plot. So, I will finish by saying that The Last of Us was a gripping read that lingered in my mind for days after I finished reading it.
Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins UK for supplying me with a copy of this title.