My Lockdown Books: Forty Four

Eleanor Updale is an intelligent, imaginative and beguiling writer and I have enjoyed all her books.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work with her a couple of times and that’s been a joy.  This is my favourite of her books and I was delighted to be able to introduce others to it in The Scotsman.

Right from the Prologue of The Last Minute the reader knows that an explosion has taken place on Heathwick High Street. The rest of the novel recounts the events of the minute before the explosion. We are introduced to a diverse selection of people and competing explanations for the coming explosion with a creeping sense of horror for what lies in wait. In a few sentences Eleanor Updale makes us care about the characters’ fate and hope passionately that our favourites will be spared. I found myself willing some of them to move more or less quickly to ensure their survival. This is an outstanding novel for mature readers of any age and adds lustre to Eleanor Updale’s established brilliance.

22nd December

Many years ago the BBC dramatised The Warden and Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. I watched them, loved them and immediately became a devoted reader of Trollope’s work. So when I had to choose a subject for my CSYS English dissertation I plumped for the first three of the Barsetshire Chronicles, the two titles already mentioned and Doctor Thorne. I took as my theme the way the plots are driven by lack of communication amongst the characters. Maybe because I came to it fresh, without anyone else’s interpretation of it in my mind, Doctor Thorne became, and remains, my favourite of this series. Trollope isn’t easy reading but he’s extremely rewarding and very funny. He’s also a very astute observer of character. If you’re looking for something different to read, I suggest you look no further.

Right from the Prologue of The Last Minute the reader knows that an explosion has taken place on Heathwick High Street. The rest of the novel recounts the events of the minute before the explosion. We are introduced to a diverse selection of people and competing explanations for the coming explosion with a creeping sense of horror for what lies in wait. In a few sentences Eleanor Updale makes us care about the characters’ fate and hope passionately that our favourites will be spared. I found myself willing some of them to move more or less quickly to ensure their survival. This is an outstanding novel for mature readers of any age and adds lustre to Eleanor Updale’s established brilliance.

Eleanor Updale

Eleanor Updale came to speak at an event I was running recently and it was lovely to see her again.  I say ‘again’ but neither of us can remember where we first met, although we both recall the meeting and I have a signed copy of Montmorency as proof.  We think it might have been at a Youth Libraries Group conference about ten years ago.  Since then Eleanor has gone on to write more books about Montmorency and his friends and two stand alone novels.  Her most recent offering is The Last Minute which I think is a complete triumph but you can read my opinion in The Scotsman next Saturday.  The exciting news, however, is that there is to be a new Montmorency novel.  Can’t wait!