The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean

Today I am sharing my thoughts on the unforgettable The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean. This was one of my most anticipated reads having been told by a fellow reader about the impact the book had on her. I wasn’t quite prepared for this though. It’s a book you have to read to understand and I am not sure how I am going to do any review justice, but I’m here now so I will try. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley

About the Book

He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .

My Thoughts

I don’t even know where to begin. This is not a warm a fuzzy book. Not in the slightest. Don’t get me wrong, it does end on a positive, and hopeful note, but, as a reader, you have a long, dark and often brutal path to travel in order to get there. If you have come expecting a Tuva-esque mystery, you won’t find this here. This time Will Dean has branched out with a story that, whilst short, and believe me you will be glad of that at times, is most terrifying because of its authenticity. This is no simple marriage and this is no simple story. You have been warned.

I don’t want to go too far into the plot – at around 200 pages it is a story you need to read and understand for yourselves. Don’t let it’s length fool you mind, as it packs one hell of an emotional and truly powerful punch. It was a book that both forced me to a point where i needed to take a break, but also absolutely drew me in with the heartbreaking story of ‘Jane’ a young woman, forced into marriage after being tricked by traffickers with the promise of a new and better life in the UK.

Now, as you can probably gather from the blurb, Jane suffers the worst of lives, a prisoner in the place she is forced to call home, a victim of severe punishment should she dare to step out of line. Every moment of every day is monitored and she is subjected to such horrific forms of control, only one of which is ever really brought to bear in any kind of detail on the page, that it is hard to read the book without feeling a visceral kind of anger bubbling within. Nothing is ever really explored in graphic detail, it doesn’t need to be. Will Dean has played a very canny game as the entire story is told in Jane’s voice. We will inside her head, mercifully able to tune out of the worst parts of her suffering as her coping mechanisms become our own as readers. Her whole life, and the story, is claustrophobic, never seeing beyond the house and the yard in which she is a prisoner, and the author paints the grim and harsh reality so clearly that you can almost feel the damp chill surround you as you read,

Jane’s strength is fed by the love for her family, the belief that her sister is leading a better life, and she will do anything. to protect that. Slowly, bit by bit her husband, Lenn, strips her of her identity, her past, the few remaining things that help her to survive. The way the author has written this is pitch perfect, the significance of the title revealed very early on in the book. Lenn is a truly awful character, the kind who absolutely made my skin crawl and a perfect blend of every abusive bully your could ever have the displeasure of reading about. And yet it forced me to look at whether his behaviour, his actions, were a case of nature or nurture. There were times when you could see a flash of humanity within him, just a tiny spark that was never enough to forgive his actions, and was extinguished almost as quickly as it appeared.

And yet Jane keeps going, her will and her determination reaching a head when her life takes a very unexpected turn, that also marks a key shift in the story too. This is the beginning of the end for this story, the first steps on the path to a conclusion of a story that is dramatic, emotional and unforgettable. A remarkable and important story that is sadly all too plausible and reflects the plight of far too many trafficked women across the globe. I don’t think. I can ever really do it justice, so I will end here. I just have to say, read it. But keep an open mind. It is hard to read, and you will likely need a break or two, but if you stick with it you will find a story that, as dark as it first appears, is also a celebration of the strength of Jane’s spirit. Highly recommended from me. So it gets one of these …

About the Author

Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying law at the LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.

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