Thursday 7 April 2022

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain #TheLastHouseOnTheStreet #DianeChamberlain @headlinepg @RosieMargesson #BookReview


1965. A young white female student becomes involved in the fight for civil rights in North Carolina, falling in love with one of her fellow activists, a Black man, in a time and place where an interracial relationship must be hidden from family, friends and especially the reemerging Ku Klux Klan. As tensions rise in the town, she realises not everyone is who they appear to be.

2010. A recently widowed architect moves into the home she and her late husband designed, heartbroken that he will never cross the threshold. But when disturbing things begin to happen, it's clear that someone is sending her a warning. Who is trying to frighten her away, and why?

Decades later, past and present are set to collide in the last house on the street...

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain was published in hardback by Headline Review on 20 January 2022, the paperback will be published on 4 August 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

What an absolute treat this book is. I've enjoyed many of Diane Chamberlain's novels, although haven't caught up with her more recent ones until this one, and it's a dual timeline - my absolute favourite way of reading a story. There's something so clever about an author who can create a story that is so seamless, yet is set over fifty years apart. Her ability to capture the past, along with writing an up to date narrative is just wonderful.

The 1965 story is one that provoked so many feelings in me. As with most of Chamberlain's books, this is based upon North Carolina, USA, although the author names her county Derby County. Those were troubled times. Segregation was still a thing, and white supremacist groups such as the KKK were vocal in the area. Young Ellie comes from a fairly wealthy family in a small town in the County. She lives with her mother, and her father, the local pharmacist and her brother Buddy. Ellie is dating, she's studying hard to follow her father into the pharmacy, she has friends and is pretty content. 

When Ellie learns about the SCOPE organisation, she is enraptured. Civil rights workers, mainly young people and both black and white are working to enable black people to use their vote. It's a dangerous thing to do, especially for a young white girl from this town, but Ellie is determined to be part of this program. Leaving town to undertake her induction causes so much grief, her friends and family turn their backs on her and her beau is distraught. 

Ellie becomes a valued member of SCOPE. Risking everything to do the work that she believes in. Having to dodge people who look just like her and creating new relationships with people that she would never have met ordinarily.

In 2010, Kayla and her young daughter have just moved into their dream home. It's the house that Kayla always wanted, designed and built by her and her husband. Tragedy struck before they moved in, and now it's just Kayla and her daughter, alone. The house is set amongst woodland, and is not far from where Kayla grew up, her father lives not far away. 

Strange events have been happening, not least the appearance of a strange, red haired woman in Kayla's office. Kayla is perturbed and uneasy and regretting her decision to move into the house. 

At first glance, it is difficult to work out how Ellie and Layla's stories connect, but this clever author slowly reveals tiny things that join them together, culminating in an explosive and quite tragic event that rocked the community, but has been covered up for so many years. 

This is a beautifully written, insightful novel that taught me so much. The horrors of segregation are laid bare, and realising that US laws are presently being passed, in 2022, that will make things difficult for black people to vote is so distressing. 

Both Ellie and Kayla are strong women, carefully created and impossible not to support. For me, the 1960s part of the story was the strongest; the wealth of historical detail is fascinating and at times, quite horrifying. I did enjoy Kayla's story too and enjoyed the way that the author cleverly linked her to Ellie. 

Highly recommended by me

Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and (London) Sunday Times best-selling 
author of 27 novels.

The daughter of a school principal who supplied her with a new book almost daily, Diane quickly learned the emotional power of story. Although she wrote many small “books” as a child, she didn’t seriously turn to writing fiction until her early thirties when she was waiting for a 
delayed doctor’s appointment with nothing more than a pad, a pen, and an idea. She was instantly hooked.

Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and lived for many years in both San Diego and northern Virginia. She received her master’s degree in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, she was a hospital social worker in both San Diego and Washington, D.C, and a psychotherapist in private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, working primarily with adolescents.

More than two decades ago, Diane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which changed the way she works: She wrote two novels using voice recognition software before new medication allowed her to get back to typing. She feels fortunate that her arthritis is not more severe and that she’s able to enjoy everyday activities as well as keep up with a busy travel schedule.

Diane lives in North Carolina with her significant other, photographer John Pagliuca, and their odd but lovable Shetland Sheepdog, Cole.

Please visit Diane's website at for her event schedule and for more information on her novels.

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