The bizarre world of Ceaucescu’s Bucharest in 1989 is the setting of this remarkable first novel by poet Patrick McGuinness, long-listed for the prestigious Booker Prize. Escaping from his failed life at home, an unqualified young Englishman arrives to take up a teaching job at the university.
His new colleague Leo, a gone-native, hard-drinking fixer, introduces him to life in the Romanian capital, where the historic Paris of the East collapses into a wilderness of demolition sites and half-finished flats. Floating along in Leo’s wake, the young man slowly becomes aware of the structural corruption, paradoxes and illusions which have become the very foundation of life in Romania.
Drawn simultaneously into an affair with the daughter of a powerful minister and into contact with dissidents, he vainly attempts to understand what he is witnessing while finding himself increasingly involved in the end-game of the regime. As the plot twists and turns, masks are gradually peeled away revealing dissidents as apparatchiks and government agents – or are they double agents? – jockey for power and plan their survival strategies. And all the time the Englishman is haunted by the shadow of his predecessor, the mysterious Dr Belanger.
Informed by a sharply intelligent poetic eye and by the author's own experience of living in Romania in the dying years of the Ceaucescu regime, The Last Hundred Days is not only a gripping literary thriller but a stylish and compelling satirical evocation of momentous historical events.
'The sardonic crispness and evocative power of its language distinguishes it from the run of contemporary fiction.'
The Times Literary Supplement
'McGuinness is an accomplished poet and writes with superb clarity. The novel is littered with aperçus that have the reader reaching for a pencil.'
'An engrossing debut novel.'
Time Out Magazine