FREE Delivery in the UK on orders with at least £10 of books.
Only 1 left in stock (more on the way).
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
The Last Town on Earth has been added to your Basket
FREE Delivery on orders over £10.
Used: Very Good | Details
Sold by the book house
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: This item will be picked, packed and shipped by Amazon and is eligible for free delivery within the UK
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

The Last Town on Earth Paperback – 4 Jun 2007

3.5 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
£0.01 £0.01
Note: This item is eligible for click and collect. Details
Pick up your parcel at a time and place that suits you.
  • Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
  • Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
How to order to an Amazon Pickup Location?
  1. Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
  2. Dispatch to this address when you check out
Learn more
£8.99 FREE Delivery in the UK on orders with at least £10 of books. Only 1 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Special Offers and Product Promotions

Frequently Bought Together

  • The Last Town on Earth
  • +
  • City of Thieves
Total price: £17.98
Buy the selected items together

Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (4 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007235003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007235001
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 605,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Thomas Mullen is an old-fashioned storyteller, and his epic novel dramatizes the complex tensions between individual rights and group responsibilities. Mullen is both merciless and measured in his depiction of the natural forces that can drag idealism down to earth.' Daily Telegraph

'A subtle, robustly written novel of compelling contemporary resonance. The ensuing crisis involves the entire community, pitting principles against passion, values against instinct.' Observer

'Thomas Mullen's debut novel is an exceptionally powerful portrait of a community losing its soul under intense pressure.' Waterstones Books Quarterly

From the Author

About the Book
`But They Never Talked About It' - by Thomas Mullen
One tip an aspiring novelist often will hear is `don't try to write something trendy or marketable'. The reason for this is that novels take so long to research, write, edit, and publish that by the time your book hits the stores, the trend that you were hoping to capitalize on will be last year's news - or, more likely, news from five years ago.

So I thought I was safe from this quandary by writing about the 1918 influenza, a historical footnote that few Americans other than historians, virologists, and public health officials seemed to know about as I began my work in 2002. Indeed, one of the only books I could find on the event was titled `America's Forgotten Pandemic'. I myself had been a history major in college and had even focused on Twentieth Century history, yet I'd never heard of the 1918 flu until I saw mention of it in a long article about an AIDS virologist who had once studied the fatal flu strain. What truly got my attention was the striking fact that some uninfected towns in 1918 had posted armed guards to keep outsiders away - the novel's opening confrontation took form in my mind immediately - but I was equally amazed that such a horrific and worldwide event could have become, as the book's title suggests, forgotten.

Why had this major catastrophe been swept under the carpets of history? Possibly because it had occurred during World War I; history texts from this era spend all their ink on the war and can't be troubled to mention the flu - it merits a sentence or two if it gets mentioned at all, even though it killed as many as 100 million people worldwide, far more than the war itself.
I was further intrigued by the fact that, although the 1918 flu took place during the formative years of such literary giants as Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Dos Passos, none of them had written about it. Many writers of that golden literary age found war a weighty topic to expound upon, allowing exploration of such themes as manhood, patriotism, and courage. But a senseless illness that killed so many, without discrimination, did not appeal to these writers the same way, apparently. Perhaps it was too reminiscent - albeit in much greater form - of past typhoid or yellow fever or cholera outbreaks, a reminder of pre-modern times best ignored by young writers hoping to forge a bold new artistic path. Perhaps people had so internalized the incessant propaganda of World War I - to be strong and patriotic and never admit fear - and as a result it would have been unseemly to expound upon or even write about the lives lost to the flu, to stare in the face of such issues as failure and helplessness, to recount such undignified deaths.
Or perhaps the flu was a bitter memory they just wanted to forget.
A number of readers have approached me after reading The Last Town on Earth and told me that its subject reminded them of a great-aunt or a great-grandfather who lost a spouse or parents or children to the epidemic. I have been struck by the fact that their stories always end with some variation of the line: `But she never talked about it.' There seemed to be a wall of silence surrounding survivors' memories of the 1918 flu, which, after the passing of many generations, was quickly leading to the very erasure of those memories. I can only imagine that this is due to the unimaginable horror of the time, the mind's inability to fully grasp what it had experienced and what it had lost. In our current age of psychoanalysis, talk shows, and tell-all memoirs, it is argued that the best way to recover from traumatic events and difficult pasts is to dredge up those memories, to `come to terms' with the fact of those wounds and their effect on our present selves - only then, the theory goes, can we achieve `closure' and become a healthier person. But the mindset in the 1910s was very different, and perhaps survivors felt the only way they could possibly recover from such an event was if they built a wall around those memories and tried, ever so slowly, to walk away from them.

One of the reasons I wrote The Last Town on Earth, then, was that it felt needed, that it would not only fill a gap in the literary canon but also, hopefully, would help retrieve some of the memories that were fading, would provide a new echo for stories that had not been voiced in many years.

By the time the book was published, of course, fear of bird flu - and virologists' warnings that mankind was overdue for another major influenza outbreak - had brought the 1918 flu out of history's dustbin and onto the front pages. Suddenly I was being told that the novel that I thought would be most interesting due to its unknown setting was now `timely', though such timing was unintended and certainly unexpected.

Although the 1918 flu was largely a natural disaster, human actions certainly exacerbated the situation. Governments were too distracted by war to devote sufficient resources to protecting public health, newspapers were cowed by censors into reporting only good news, and citizens showed distrust and suspicion toward their neighbors most in need of aid. People, quite simply, did not know what to do; they had neither government nor media nor family legends and stories to guide them. Even today, despite our many medical advances, it is sobering to realize how much more vulnerable our globalized world would be to such an outbreak. Eighty-nine years since that most awful epidemic, perhaps now is the time to remember what those before us have endured, to understand how the earlier versions of our societies reacted, and to talk about how we might respond if cast in a similar crucible.

See all Product Description

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I sometimes wonder if the reviewers who write the reviews which appear on the covers of books have actually read the book at all. For example, on this book the New York Times Reviewer has written "Mullen's suspenseful storytelling pulls us forward. Time and again his imagery is devastatingly right"; and although, I agree, that the first 100 pages or so is undoubtedly very readable and the story starts off very nicely and quite promising, the next 283 meander along, never really getting to the point of anything and ending in a disappointing and, to my mind, what seemed a hurried fashion, as if the author had got as sick of his tale as I had by the end of it and just wanted to be done with it. (Perhaps the reviewer only read the first 100 pages?)

I also agree that some of the imagery and, in particular, the language used in the book is a real strength. However, overall, the characters were lacklustre, the story was at times confusing and my general impression was that it could just have been so much better if it had been more tightly crafted and edited to a higher standard. In the end, I came to the conclusion, that the author wasn't really sure what type of book it was that he was writing. Is it a historical novel? Because a gripping story about the flu epidemic of 1918 would have made for a great read. Or is it a political diatribe? I'd prefer the former over the latter; but this seemed to be a bit of both.

Even the cover of the book didn't make that much sense to me after reading the novel. The wording is "As a deadly epidemic threatens their town, two men must decide its fate." And that's the way it seems to be when the first soldier arrives to intrude upon the town's self-imposed quarantine. But then another soldier turns up and another man intervenes.
Read more ›
Comment 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a thrilling debut. Set in the small American mill-town of Commonwealth, founded by Charles Worthy, a philanthropic mill-owner who wants to offer a fair deal for his workers. All seems to be going well at the tail end of the Great War, with American now involved in the combat when a more catastrophic event (in terms of American lives lost) occurs – a Flu epidemic . Commonwealth decides to go into quarantine and post guards to prevent entry from potentially flu-ridden outsiders. One of the guards is Philip, the Worthy’s adopted teenage son. Whilst on duty he has to make a decision which has a tremendous effect on the town. Mullen has produced a balanced, rich tale with great moral implications and depth, very good characterisation and the plot is engrossing, tense and unpredictable. I loved it.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
I was lucky enough to be sent a proof copy of this book and I am very happy to be able to recommend it as an outstanding read. It's set in WW1 and is about a small town that puts itself under quarantine in order to keep out a plague virus that is sweeping the world and killing large amounts of people. Guards are posted on lookout duty to ensure that no-one leaves or enters the town - until one day a soldier appears, begging for help. He is hungry, cold and tired. He begs for help - what would you do? We learn about the course of action that the young guard takes, the outcome it has on his family, and the chain of events that causes fear, distrust and ugly rumours to almost destroy the community. This is a true page turner which sweeps the reader along with the mounting panic as fear sets into the town. Gripping stuff...I loved every page.
Comment 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I started out thinking this would be fascinating telling of the almost forgotten 1918 influenza. It set off at a good pace with some key action early on but then somehow the emphasis of the story went in another direction. This story of a north west US town that isolates itself to try and prevent being infected by the rampant virus turns into a bit of political ramble about the burgeoning American trade union and pacifist movements rather than a sociological insight into the effects this terrible epidemic had on the times.

It is a powerful story for all that and Thomas Mullen is an author of promise. I was disappointed by the ending which seemed to be a bit of action to bring everything to a climax. Some parts of the narrative were rather drawn out and repetitive but I have to admit that I enjoyed the reading of it overall. Possibly Mullen could have benefited from some for tighter editing to make this a really well crafted book. It misses the mark but not by much.
Comment 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
By Johnnybluetime VINE VOICE on 5 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I confess this tale of an isolated town in the American Northwest during the influenza pandemic of 1918 took me a while to read, but overall I found it an interesting book without being compelling. The story is a good one of a liberal timber mill owner and his workers, many of them socialists and misfits, who quarentine their town from the ravages of the flu which is decimating the whole country and indeed, the world. As the author says, this is not an episode in history that is particularly well known and is largely overshadowed by the events of the First World War, and yet it killed many millions more than those who died in the war.

The characters are well drawn and believable from Philip, the mill owner's adopted son, to JB Merriweather, a banker from the neighbouring town. The plot involves young Philip allowing a deserter into the town and what happens thereafter to him and his friend and idol, Graham, and the rest of the inhabitants. Despite a canvas that encompasses many different characters, Mullen holds it all together very well, and succeed in creating a believable and interesting story.There are obvious parallels to the events of the last few years, specifically Bush's War on Terror, but the author never overdoes it and he largely leaves it to the reader to make the connections.

Why only three stars then? Well, firstly it lacks a fiery sense of passion at the injustices suffered by the characters. It is at times a little too polite and the writing is rather dry. Secondly, as others have mentioned, there are some anomolies, and thirdly the ending feels unresolved and makes the book a less satisfying read because of it. Nevertheless, I would still recommend it.
Comment One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Look for similar items by category