PUBLISHER: MacLehose Press
RELEASE DATE: 5th July 2012
FORMAT: Paperback, 352 pages
Italy is on the brink of collapse. Borders are closed, banks withhold money, the postal service stalls. Armed gangs of drug-fuelled youths roam the countryside. Leonardo was a famous writer and professor before a sex scandal ended his marriage and career. Heading north in search of her new husband, his ex-wife leaves their daughter and her son in his care. If he is to take them to safety, he will need to find a quality he has never possessed: courage. (Goodreads)
THE LAST MAN STANDING is a dystopian novel set in Italy, where society has collapsed, the borders are closed and the future uncertain. We never find out what has caused such chaos as we follow the life of Leonardo but we do find out how he survives in this unruly world and how he overcomes the challenges that he has to face. THE LAST MAN STANDING is quite a serious and realistic read and shows how the love a parent has for their child can provide the determination and strength to survive anything.
Leonardo is a lonely fifty three year old ex-English professor and novelist, and he loves nothing more than reading, and had a room created that most book lovers would dream of.
Then he had filled the space, about ten meters by four, with bookshelves he had had made to measure and fixed to the walls by a carpenter. Apart from thousands of books there was nothing but an armchair and a standard lamp on a carpet in the middle of the room.
Leonardo is a very caring, selfless man, although he lacks a backbone as on more than one occasion at the beginning of the book he allows people to walk all over him, however, he demonstrates quiet strength and a caring nature as he rescues a pup and nurses it back to health.
Leonardo has a daughter Lucia, however after a divorce, he was left alone and had no contact with his family for a long time. Leonardo loves Lucia very much and writes to her all the time, these letter are always returned unopened as his wife and child want nothing to do with him. Imagine Leonardo’s surprise when his ex-wife, Alessandra, turns up on his doorstep with Lucia, and Alberto, Alessandra’s step-son needing Leonardo to look after them so she can go and try to find Alberto’s father, her new husband.
Decision making is painstakingly slow as Leonardo, entrusted with the care of these children, attempts to take them to the safety of Switzerland as they have all the necessary paperwork to ensure safe passage, only to be thwarted at every turn and finding so much unnecessary death along the way.
Their lives have not slipped away, but been snatched from them. Not like a child’s milk tooth, that after dangling for days drops out to make room for its successor, but like healthy teeth needlessly ripped out with cold forceps and no anaesthetic. I can’t get used to seeing these bodies and I am always disturbed by them.
Unable to get to the boarders and hearing of stories of anybody approaching boarders being shot at despite having the correct paperwork, Leonardo decides to make their way to the coast in the hope of finding another way across.
During their journey to the coast, Leonardo is found by two youths that take him and his family by surprise, these youths kidnap Alberto and Lucia. Leonardo wants to protect and rescue his daughter and by doing so is taken captive by the gang of lawless youths and their leader, Richard. There are quite a few disturbing scenes of murder, torture and rape during their time with this gang as the boys take what they want, when they want it. Leonardo description of this gang could describe some of today’s culture.
Their vocabulary was basic, approximate and stuffed with expletives.
There was no distinction for them between wanting to do something and actually doing it; the inconvenient processes of thought had dissolved to make way for untrammelled need.
Leonardo was put in a cage with a circus elephant, I must admit I did wonder how and why an elephant appeared on the front cover, called is David. He is very gentle and becomes Leonardo’s saviour in keeping him company and allowing him to share his warmth along with another animal, a donkey named Circe. Leonardo bides his time as he prepares and watches for a chance to take on Richard and earn his freedom for himself, his animals and those who want to leave the camp with him.
THE LAST MAN STANDING takes Leonardo on a journey through the chaotic, lawless world where he comes face to face with murderer, rapists, thieves and gangs, and it’s amazing to see the change Leonardo’s personality goes through to enable him to survive in this harsh climate. I did find it moving when we see Leonardo find unknown strength to enable him, and especially his daughter, a chance of survival.
THE LAST MAN STANDING was slow and methodical but quite moving. Leonardo is a selfless protagonist that goes through a massive change to save his daughter and to ensure her safety in this new cruel, lawless world. I enjoy dystopian novels, which are usually futuristic, THE LAST MAN STANDING however, is set in our current world, albeit a broken down version and is quite realistic. My main reason for not fully enjoying this book is because it is a little too grown-up and serious for me. It lacked excitement and quite often reminded me of a news reporter with a lifeless tone. There were also no chapters, unless you call the six sections in a 352 page book chapters, and I’m one for reading to the end of a chapter for a place to stop, I hate putting a book down mid-chapter!
DAVIDE LONGO ONLINE
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