Trapped for years. Trapped in the most open prison you could imagine. Fields stretch out before her, but she cannot leave.
The Last Thing To Burn is a book like no other, written by the talented Will Dean. Dean studied Law at the LSE, and he now resides in rural Sweden, in the midst of an elk forest. It is there that he reads and writes, almost all the time.
The plot of this incredible book follows Thanh Dao, or as her captor calls her, Jane, after her arrival in England from Vietnam. She and her sister came to England for a better life – but this did not go to plan.
‘Jane’ now resides in a small farm cottage, surrounded by next to nothing except fields for what seems like miles.
Her captor is Lenn, a tall and brutal man, rather simple minded – but not stupid. He watches Jane’s every move and has rules for her to follow or her possessions, the only things that keep her sane and human, will be destroyed.
After years of his torment, something happens that sparks new life into our protagonist. Something that causes her to fight like she’s never fought before…
Within the first 10 pages of reading this book, you cannot help but be completely invested. You are sucked into Jane’s awful life as she scrubs his floors, cooks his meals, and does everything he tells her to. You are with her every step of the way.
The pure desperation you can feel in the first few pages from Jane are especially hard-hitting. The book’s first-person perspective really makes you feel for her, almost like you’re reading the dire journal of a real person.
We follow Jane through every moment of her misery, and it sticks with you the more you read and somehow, you feel guilty for not being able to help her.
Jane’s naivety in regard to English food, culture and anything she can learn about the country from sparse reading materials is wholesome to say the least, as her entrapment does not stunt her hunger to learn and to see what the country she came to in desperation really looks like.
Thanh Dao's Vietnamese heritage shines through in certain places like sunlight through a cracked wall, as her want to be with family and her memories of feasts at home are saddening.
She thinks back to home at Christmas, and what delicacies would be served and what fun everyone would be having. Her culture brings through a sense of family and togetherness, even in her desperate posotion.
In the same way you might hide under a cushion while waiting to see the killer in a horror movie, this book works almost the exact same way. When the sentences become shorter, and you know Lenn is near or something terrible is about to happen, your heart beats faster.
Because of Jane’s beautiful charm, you want no harm to befall her. So when you know Lenn is about to punish her for something, or she may get caught doing something she shouldn’t, you genuinely feel nervous; you feel fear as Jane’s life is on the line.
For a book to encapsulate readers in such a way that makes them feel terror and nervousness is a phenomenal feat to accomplish. To grip readers so quickly and give them a swift yet thorough understanding of the small cast of characters is just remarkable.
This book would not work if it were in any other format than first person, as poor Jane’s despair and innocence are spread through the whole book like butter on toast. Dean does this so well and truly understands how to write the perfect thriller.
She almost gives up so many times, and Dean permits you to feel what she would be feeling, and it is incredible.
It is perfectly paced, with any events dotted through the narrative in just the right places to spur the story onwards, but without forcing the story or the characters within it to progress – the words flow so well within the pages.
This book may not be for everyone due to the hard-hitting and somewhat cruel nature of its contents. However, this does not serves as a criticism - it is simply an indication that this isn’t for the faint-of-heart.
Five out of five is the only rating The Last Thing To Burn should receive. It flows beautifully, Thanh Dao, or Jane’s personality comes through perfectly and creates the ideal person for the focus of this story. A simply flawless novel.
Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal
Horror and thriller books may be the hardest to write, with the author having to describe each moment through language rather than through sight. Fortunately, Sarah Pearse cuts right through this with her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Pearse is a young writer who lives by the sea with her husband and two daughters. Always drawn to creepy and peculiar things, the writer has allowed the macabre to creep beautifully into her first release... to read more click HERE
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