The Last Hundred Days

by Patrick McGuinness

The Last Hundred Days

Sometimes I feel incredibly upbeat and believe that one day I’ll be a writer too…then I come across someone like Patrick McGuinness and I think again. It’s not that I’m terrifically bad, it’s just that he is phenomenally good.

He makes the unreal, real. You aren’t experiencing what the narrator’s experiencing directly, but you know. You sense the danger, the destruction, the craziness of Romanian society leading up to the fall of Ceausescu. You are repulsed, outraged but also learning, drawn-in, and in a strange way enjoying from your safe spot over the narrator’s shoulder.

The narration is so frank and genuine that it feels like non-fiction. You trust this scarred young man and understand why he stays and behaves the way he does. This is not your experience but in way you can mix your experience and see exactly what you’re being told.

McGuinness creates atmosphere. Sometimes with tension or sensuality or amusement or with empathy – however always with poetry. And I feel it’s the latter that strikes him apart from so many writers. The images are so perfectly crafted, that by page 19 I knew that it would be sin not to share this work with my husband, so later that evening it became our new Book at Bedtime.

I invite you now to read through just a tiny sample of his work and not be blown away. McGuinness is really, as Blackwell’s described, a Rising Star.

‘Plants hung from balconies where people sat in the dark, backlit by the blue of their televisions’ p16

‘The three sets of doors between the modest entrance and the resplendent dining were like the decompression chambers of a submarine’ p17.

‘Wintersmith talked and munched peanuts at the same time, so that the contents of his mouth resembled the churn of the weekly rubbish as the jaws of the bin lorry closed on it. After years of cocktail parties, his fingers had set into a kind of tapered simian scoop with which he shovelled up bowls of snacks. Beside him was Franklin Shrapnel, his opposite number at the US embassy…’ p109

‘…light lapping at the cobbles…’p 135

And the characters – you’ll no doubt collate your own opinions but I defy you not to feel something every time Cilea hits the page.

Golly I could go on and on – but it’s best I leave it to you to discover and enjoy.