The Last Weekend by Blake Morrison

In other news, which I’ve mentioned earlier, I joined a book club!

If you’re in the Greenwich area and love books I would definitely recommend joining us. We meet the first Wednesday of the month and read a different book each month. Whether you loved or hated the book there’s always something to discuss. The Last Weekend was the book of choice the first week I attended the book club. This is what I thought.

Blurb

Set over a long weekend, Blake Morrison’s new novel is a taut, atmospheric, brilliantly chilling story of a rivalrous friendship – as told by Ian, the deceptively casual narrator.

It opens with a surprise phone call from an old university friend, inviting Ian and his wife, Em, for a few days by the sea. Their hosts, Ollie and Daisy, are a glamorous couple. And the scene is set for sunlit relaxation and cheerful reminiscence. But dangerous tensions quickly emerge.

In vivid, careful prose, Blake Morrison perfectly conveys the stifling atmosphere of a remote cottage in the hottest days of summer. Troubling revelations from Ian’s past slowly intrude. And his rivalry with Ollie intensifies as they resurrect a seemingly forgotten bet made twenty years before. Each day becomes a series of challenges for higher and higher stakes, setting in motion actions that will have irreversible consequences.

My Review

This review might be tough to write because I’m still on the fence as to how much I liked it. The book is a tense and fast-moving book told following the events of a long weekend in the life of four friends. First there’s Ollie and Daisy, the golden couple. They invite Ian and Em (the poorer, less golden couple) to a remote country lodge for a brief holiday. As the weekend progresses, old rivalries surface as the two old university friends Ian and Ollie interact. It leads to a dark, chilling, ending.

First things first, Ian is an incredibly unreliable narrator. At the beginning of the book I liked his easy nature but as the book progresses his character crosses the line. He’s a devious, manipulative and delusional liar. His obsession with Daisy comes full-force and we find that he is capable of horrible, horrible things. (I’ll let you discover them.) Daisy is a a waif like character and I wish we had learnt more about her. Her dreams, her fears, her expectations. Em the same – we don’t quite get the full picture, but I think this is to expose Ian’s unstable nature.

The whole holiday is an utter car crash that I couldn’t stop looking at. But was also sickened by what was happening/what I was seeing. Throughout the book Ian and Ollie compete to honor an old bet. A range of sporting challenges which are played for bigger and better stakes. Ian, the poorer friend feels a sense of social inferiority to his richer, more successful friend, which is magnified by his gambling addiction (kept secret from their friends.) There’s a definite sense of an unsettled score and a childishness to the rivalry between the two men.

Final Thoughts

The book does have problems. The ending is very formulaic and predictable. Daisy and Ollie have a son that comes on the holiday but dissapears frequently. We never learn where he’s been and he never really adds anything  the book. There’s also a discussion of Ollie visiting the lodge as a boy. It’s never revealed whether Ollie was lying. Other bits and pieces in the book that seem pivotal are never discussed. It’s frustrating.

The writing is playful and well-written. As Ian’s personality bubbles and becomes more unstable, we see Ollie and Daisy react but never get the release we need. The twist (if you can call it at the end,) is very well done, just not quite the ending I wanted.

Read ‘The Last Weekend’ for the shock factor, and the beautiful McEwan style writing but it’s not perfect.

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