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The Last Hundred Days [Paperback]

Patrick McGuinness
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

1 Jun 2011
The socialist state is in crisis, the shops are empty and old Bucharest vanishes daily under the onslaught of Ceaucescu's demolition gangs. Paranoia is pervasive and secret service men lurk in the shadows. In The Last 100 Days, Patrick McGuinness creates an absorbing sense of time and place as the city struggles to survive this intense moment in history. He evokes a world of extremity and ravaged beauty from the viewpoint of an outsider uncomfortably, and often dangerously, close to the eye of the storm as the regime of 1980s Romania crumbles to a bloody end.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Seren; First Edition edition (1 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1854115413
  • ISBN-13: 978-1854115416
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 174,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Review

"...the sardonic crispness and evocative power of its language distinguishes it from the run of contemporary fiction." Sean O'Brien, TLS "..engrossing debut novel..I defy anyone not to revel in 350-odd pages of it at least" Time Out Magazine **** Book of the Month (June 2011) Buzz Magazine

About the Author

A professor of French and Comparative Literature at Oxford University and a Fellow of St Anne's College where he has taught since 1998. He lives in North West Wales. Carcanet publishes his poetry and he has won an Eric Gregory Award, the American Poetry Foundation Levinson Prize in 2003 and Poetry Business Prize in 2006.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Epoch of Light, Dignity and Joy! 24 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This longish novel relates the final eight months of the hard-line regime of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The book is highly readable, often fascinating, but has significant flaws.
Much like 'Snowdrops', also thumbs-upped by Booker Prize judges in 2011, we have the often-seen set-up of a rootless, naive man coming to a foreign country and quickly finding himself involved in confusing and potentially dangerous events ('The Last King of Scotland' is another example, plus a number of Graham Greene's novels, of course). In McGuinness's version, the anonymous narrator, a recent graduate with no attachments at home, finds himself being offered a job - despite not turning up for the interview - at Bucharest University. There he meets the charismatic, vaguely Ballardian figure of Leo O'Heix, fellow academic, psychogeographic flaneur and master black-marketeer. With extraordinary speed, the narrator is dragged not only into Leo's shady networks, but into the political epicentre of the burgeoning revolution. He meets a politician's daughter, the predictably glamorous but shadowy Celia, and - just as predictably - begins a relationship with her (quite what his attraction is for her, we aren't told). From there, he crosses paths with various sinister, shadowy characters, both old and young, as around him, dissent starts to build and the regime's triumphalist slogans begin to look increasingly empty.
The workings of totalitarian states are always fascinating and McGuinness does a good, detailed job of putting across the paranoia and madness; nothing new perhaps, but convincing and with trenchant commentary. He evokes an increasingly ruined Bucharest with skill. The novel's main problems are centred on the character of the narrator; his story is implausible, and so are his responses.
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56 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Timisoara! Timisoara! Timisoara! 13 Aug 2011
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
The Last Hundred Days is a straightforward, first person narrative told by an English academic who has found himself teaching at a Bucharest university in late 1989. He arrives into a totalitarian communist state led by the sinister Nicolae Ceau'sescu supported by the army, militia, police and securitate. But as the reader knows, in 100 days time, the regime will fall and the Ceau'sescus will be shot. This makes for an odd novel - the end is known and the puzzle is how such a turnaround will happen so quickly.

Much of the madness of 1980s Romania is well known. The destruction of villages; the orphanages; the construction of the Palace of the People; and the systematic starvation of the population in order to repay foreign debt. These reference points are all there. But there is more: an insight into the nature of corruption; how the nomenklature lived; the crazy relations between the Conduca'tor and his various African and East European counterparts, perpetually receiving each other on official visits in an effort to create credibility from thin air. As the unrest grows, the bould Nicolae jets off to Iran to press the flesh. And when you're trying to impress with your Iranian connections, you know you're in trouble.

And in the middle of all this, there's the story. Our unnamed narrator flies into Bucharest to take on a job he was given despite not attending the interview. He arrives to find he has filled the shoes (and the job, and the flat) of the missing Belanger. His position, overseen by sleazy Leo O'Heix, seems to involve more than merely teaching students. Our narrator is inducted into a world of intrigue which leads to intimate connections with all levels of the Romanian communist party.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative - feels like non-fiction 2 Sep 2011
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
"The Last Hundred Days" in question here are the final days of Ceau'escu's Romania in late 1989. Narrated by an unnamed young British expat who has a job offer from the English department of Bucharest University, despite never having interviewed for the job, we get an insight into the life under communist rule as Eastern bloc countries all around start to open up after the fall of the Berlin Wall. We are told that McGuinness lived in Romania in the years leading up to the revolution, and this is no surprise as there is an authenticity here that could only have come from some level of inside knowledge.

It's a fascinating insight, and one which I enjoyed very much, although there are a few qualms that are worth pointing out. For a start McGuinness takes quite a while for the story to get going. This is his first novel and he is apparently also a poet and this comes as no surprise in the first 50 or so pages as he never misses an opportunity to provide a metaphor or simile in his descriptions that can lead to the book seeming a little "over-written".

However the biggest challenge is that the book has a fairly tenuous relationship to anything that would conventionally be called a plot. The narrator's experience has moments that might be considered to be a plot-line as he finds out what is happening to friends he meets, but the driver of the action in the historic events. This is a problem as we all know what happened and in fact while there were signs of some changes during the last one hundred days, when the end came it was all rather sudden. Neither does our narrator seem to have much to do in his job - he meets some students outside the university and frankly it is difficult to see how he knew who they were.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful
Published 8 days ago by bbcgoogle
3.0 out of 5 stars Good historical review.
This book catches the feel of the end of communism in Romania very effectively. The characters were difficult to become fully involved with. Read more
Published 17 days ago by PeterG
5.0 out of 5 stars a class act
written by someone who is on top form. any weaknesses in the plot are balanced by some fantastic prose. Read more
Published 1 month ago by david craig
5.0 out of 5 stars a great insight
I didn't know what to expect when I downloaded this book, I expected a factual historical account written in documentary style; I was however pleasantly surprised to get a novel... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. Jane Helden
5.0 out of 5 stars Romania
I have been in Romania in the last few years so it interested me to read this book. The book is a novel.
Published 1 month ago by jdd3
5.0 out of 5 stars compelling
I enjoyed this very much, though as an ex pat who remembers her early days (not the same country, but some of the same feelings and echoes of events) and now reading it in Turkey... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sally Hirst
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and informative
I enjoyed this book very much. The story and the events merged so well and made an excellent read. Very interesting and informative.
Published 1 month ago by David Laurence Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars good read for anyone interested in politics
a good book possibly a little too involved with too many characters .but a good and faithful record of the fall of communism and dictatorial leadership.. Read more
Published 1 month ago by stuart green
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Almost a five star for me. I could not put this down and was referring constantly to historical sources to learn even more about those last days of the Ceauçescu regime. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bluestocking
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, v good quality copy.
Mc Guinness writes very high quality prose, telling a compelling story with well drawn, intriguing characters. A fascinating insight into the fall of the Ceausescus.
Published 3 months ago by Rosemary S Tilley
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