Friday 22 April 2016

The Last Of Us by Rob Ewing

The island is quiet now.
On a remote Scottish island, six 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.

The Last of Us by Rob Ewing was published in hardback by The Borough Press on 21 April 2016.

There are some books that are so very difficult to review, not because they are badly written or because they are not enjoyable. They are difficult because they are so incredibly different, and unusual and even though you may adore the story, and the writing, the book is a puzzle.

The Last of Us is one of those puzzles. It is beautifully constructed with characters who are perfectly formed and who surprise and shock the reader. The blurb for the book is beguiling and intriguing and when you take the first step and read the first page, you become consumed and entranced by this group of young children who are alone on an isolated Scottish island, with no adults to show them the way, or to teach them how.

These children are the only living humans left on the island. Everyone has been wiped out by a mysterious illness and they are doing their best to survive. Led by sensible Elizabeth, an 'incomer', the daughter of medics, they are a band of survivors. They are managing to survive, with rules drawn up and regular 'shopping' trips to the houses of dead friends, relatives, teachers, neighbours, Yet their bond is stretched to the limit and the struggle to survive is not their only challenge. They experience what any group of people do, whether they are children or grown-ups; that struggle for power. The struggle that we see everyday, across the world; from politicians, from terrorists, in the workplace, and at the beginning, in the schoolyard.

The Last of Us is narrated by eight-year-old Rona, and Rob Ewing has brilliantly portrayed the way that a child's mind works. Rona's narration does not flow easily, she slips back to the 'then', she talks about the 'now' and she wonders about the 'after'. Rona misses her Mother and speaks to her in everything that she says and does, which helps her to make decisions and to deal with events that happen throughout the story.

Running through this brilliantly imagined story are themes of courage and survival. The reader is exposed to the fears of the children, we also see their strength, their hope and their inner belief in a positive future.

The Last Of Us is sometimes horrible, it's always bleak and desolate, but it is also frighteningly believable.

My thanks to the publisher The Borough Press who sent my copy for review.

Rob Ewing grew up in a wee village near Falkirk, Central Scotland, and studied to become a doctor at Aberdeen University.
He's now working as a GP in Edinburgh.
His short stories and poetry have been published widely including in Granta's New Writing, New Writing Scotland, Aesthetica, Stand, Rialto, Magma, and been performed on BBC Radio Scotland.
The Last of Us, his first novel is published by The Borough Press.

For more information about Rob Ewing and his writing, visit his website

Follow him on Twitter @robewinguk


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