Book Review: The Last Night by Cesca Major

In a quiet coastal village, Irina spends her days restoring furniture, passing the time in peace and hiding away from the world. A family secret, long held and never discussed, casts a dark shadow and Irina chooses to withdraw into her work. When an antique bureau is sent to her workshop, the owner anonymous, Irina senses a history to the object that makes her uneasy. As Irina begins to investigate the origins of the piece, she unearths the secrets it holds within.

Decades earlier, another young woman kept secrets. Her name was Abigail. over the course of one summer, she fell in love, and dreamed of the future. But Abigail could not know that a catastrophe loomed, and this event would change the course of many lives for ever... 

Published May 4th 2017 (PB) by Corvus 



I loved Cesca Major's debut novel, The Silent Hours and was very much looking forward to reading The Last Night. I wasn't disappointed and found myself swept away in this beautifully written story from the first page.

The Last Night tells the story of two women in two different time periods. In the present, reclusive Irina has thrown herself into her work as a furniture restorer, but when a mysterious commission leads to unsettling events and increasing feelings of unease, Irina decides to explore further into the secrets of the unusual writing bureau and finds herself caught up in a tale of romance, secrets and tragedy. Meanwhile, she's hiding from her own past and hidden secrets, cutting herself off from those who care for her in the process.

Half a Century earlier. Abigail has big dreams to leave behind her home town of Bristol and make something of her life. But when her Mother suddenly dies, she has no choice but go and live with her sister and her husband in Cornwall. It's here she falls in love, but the romance is tinged by an ever increasing threat to Abigail from someone she should be able to trust, bringing her need to escape rising to the surface again until one night a tragedy strikes and changes everything.

This book oozes with secrets and atmosphere. The writing is so evocative, that in one chapter I was in 1950's Cornwall, while the next I'd be in the present day, feeling the same sense of unease as Irina as she uncovers the secrets of the bureau. I was intrigued by Irina, who has hidden herself away in her workshop, and wondered what had happened to make her withdraw from the world. There's obviously something she's hiding, and the anguish and guilt she feels is almost palpable. The relationship with her Mother was also intriguing, a woman who seems as lost as she is yet the two are unable to connect.

As much as I liked Irina's chapter's and the intrigue surrounding the writing bureau, I think Abigail's story was my favourite and really caught my imagination. I loved her spirit, loyalty and ambition, and hoped she could overcome the obstacles she finds in front of her. I also adored the tender, innocent romance which blossoms in the beautifully described coastal village in Cornwall. As the story moves along, there's a growing sense of foreboding overshadowing Abigail as the secret she is hiding takes its toll, leading right up to the unexpected and  tragic evening that will change everything. I was taken aback by how raw and wild and surprising this is, made all the more shocking by being based on real events.

The Last Night is my favourite type of book. A stunning setting, the secrets of past and present colliding and characters I really care about. Mix this with Cesca Major's beautifully evocative writing and you've got a book to truly get lost in. With a romantically ethereal quality, I thought it was absolutely stunning.

(I read a paperback copy supplied by the publisher)




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