I was delighted to be given a copy of Rosamund Lupton’s Three Hours when I attended a Penguin New Releases blogger evening last September, that you can read about here. It gives me enormous pleasure to make Three Hours my first Linda’s Book Bag review of 2020.
Three Hours will be released by Penguin’s Viking imprint on 9th January 202 and is available for pre-order through these links.
Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.
It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.
It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.
It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. From the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.
My Review of Three Hours
An armed siege at a school over three hours.
I am left reeling having read Three Hours. My heart rate remains elevated and I’m struggling to regain my composure. Although this is my first review of 2020 I have a feeling Three Hours will be hard to beat for my book of the year. It’s utterly astounding. Rosamund Lupton’s writing is intense, beautiful and terrifying. Three Hours took me to the extremes of my emotions in understanding love and fear and I feel physically altered by reading it. I hadn’t expected to feel quite so moved by what is, essentially, a thriller, but I wept as I finished the book.
The structure of the book is so intelligently and elegantly plotted. Timings at the start of each chapter underline how quickly and easily an ordinary day can morph into a horrifying one so that the pace never lets up. At times I found I could only read a few pages before I needed to allow myself a moment to breathe because I was holding my breath in nervous anticipation. I found events shocking, and the weaving in of real life occurrences and people, lent Three Hours a gravitas and horror that surpassed my expectations.
Rosamund Lupton’s attention to detail is exquisite; the cold of the snow emphasising the chill of terror that underpins every word, for example. The fabulous use of Macbeth as a disturbing motif that perturbed me throughout. The perfectly attuned examples of how social media breeds opinion, and so on, all create a claustrophobia and panic that is all too realistic.
Usually when I read a book with multiple characters I am irritated because they feel indistinct but in Three Hours I felt I knew everyone of the people between its pages intimately. My heart ached for Rafi particularly. But beyond the narrative, I feel as if Three Hours has helped me better understand humanity and its frailties too.
As well as being unnerved and awed by the plot, I found parts of Three Hours profoundly sad because of the links to real events and the pervasive intolerance and irrational hatred we so often witness in the world that Rosamund Lupton presents so starkly and so terrifyingly realistically. Her themes exploring radicalisation, education, loyalty, family and love vibrate with realism so that they have the most visceral impact on the reader. Although my heart ached for many of the characters, and although I was terrified and angered by the plot and the potential for this fiction to become very much a reality, I finished reading the book with a profound sense of love and optimism.
I feel I have done Rosamund Lupton’s Three Hours a complete disservice in my review. I lack the vocabulary and superlatives to express just how brilliant I thought it was. Perfectly plotted, beautifully written, terrifying and emotional, Three Hours is a complete tour de force. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
About Rosamund Lupton
Rosamund Lupton’s debut novel Sister, was a BBC Radio 4 “Book at Bedtime”, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, winner of the Strand Magazine critics award and the Richard and Judy Bookclub Readers’ Choice Award. Her next two books Afterwards and The Quality of Silence were Sunday Times bestsellers. Her books have been published in over thirty languages.