Three Hours

I found Rosamund Lupton in Heathrow airport during a long layover, and devoured her debut novel Sister before I boarded the plane.  Since then I have anxiously waited for her novels to travel across the pond; but Three Hours was too long to wait.  I still have not seen it in stores here but I found it through the Book Depository and escaped into its world, reading through it in one day.  I love it when a book captures me; it’s been a while since a story has been so compelling.

Three Hours reminded me of the first of Ann Patchett’s novels, Bel Canto, with its theme of hostages, terror, lives intersecting and morphing into positive and negative influences, with a well constructed plot leading to surprises at the end. Lupton updates her characters to students in a liberal British school, unknowingly infiltrated by a psychopath who has connected with a hate filled group.  Students tweet and send messages through all the current social media and learn how to make bombs and adapt machine guns on the internet; they are more adept than their teachers and parents, of course.  Two Syrian refugees, one who proves to be a hero, provide the fulcrum as the story unravels through three hours of terror in the school.

So much happens, the three hours could have been weeks, as the reader watches students, teachers, parents, and the attackers through the lens of innocence and bias.  Macbeth plays a pivotal role on the story, and as someone who has read and taught the play, I was impressed by how Lupton integrates Shakespeare’s universal themes into today’s world.  As their fellow students are held hostage in the library, barricaded by books, and in a small pottery shed, making clay animals, the seniors rehearse the play in the seemingly foolproof theater.  The play’s murders and the infamous witches are suddenly relevant to the horror around them, and Birnam Wood will never be the same.

A fast paced thriller with not so subtle implications for today’s world, Three Hours is another of Lupton’s amazing rides.

Related Posts:

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

The Quality of Silence

Sister

 

 

 

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Double, double, toil and trouble…

With characters named after Shakespearean heroines and dialogue sprinkled with quotes from the Bard, Eleanor Brown delivers on the reference in her title – but without Macbeth or witches.  And, if you have sisters or daughters in your family, some of the scenes will resonate.

Set in a small college town in Ohio, The Weird Sisters has a predictable plot of family problem-solving and relationships.  Three unmarried sisters, named Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia by their English professor father, return home to care for their mother who has breast cancer.   But each also has her own unresolved life issues to confront.

..we love each other, we just don’t happen to like each other…

Brown uses a clever device to tell the story; at times, all three sisters are telling the story as one voice.  She has you inside their heads, seeing each other, themselves, and the world around them – in a kaleidoscopic view.  Can be strange (weird?) at times, but keeps the cauldron bubbling.

They are what they are, and yet not:  Rose, the eldest, most responsible and accomplished; Bean (Bianca) most beautiful; Cordy, youngest, most spoiled, and looking for something that is not a hand-me-down.  As the story develops around their mother’s cancer – chemo, surgery, embolisms – each sister confronts her own demons to face her destiny: Rose’s fear of leaving, Bean’s professional life as a “thief and liar,” Cordy’s irresponsibility and pregnancy.

Brown teases with some drama, and a little sex – and works in convenient plot twists to solve all problems – all’s well that ends well – maybe a little too neatly.  The characters, especially the sisters’ father, reference Shakespeare in their general conversation, but the quotes get a little overdone and, sometimes, you will wish Brown would just get on with it, and say what she means.

The Weird Sisters is a good story for a quiet afternoon – a Hallmark channel kind of luxury.  I cried and laughed a little, related to some scenes, recognized most of the Elizabethan references, looked forward to the ending…

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day… “