Title: The Last Woman In The World
Author: Inga Simpson
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group UK, Sphere
Genre: General (Adult) Fiction, Literary Fiction
Release Date: 24th February 2022
BLURB from Goodreads
Fear is her cage. But what's outside is worse...
It's night, and dust swirls against the walls of Rachel's home in the Australian bush. Her fear of other people has led her to a reclusive life as far from them as possible, her only occasional contact with her sister.
A hammering on the door. There stand a mother, Hannah, and her sick baby. They are running for their lives from a mysterious death sweeping the Australian countryside - so soon, too soon, after everything.
Now Rachel must face her worst fears to help Hannah, search for her sister, and discover just what terror was born of us. . . and how to survive it.
It was the title, The Last Woman In The World that first attracted my attention to the book,
I wanted to know who this “Last Woman” was, how she had survived and where everyone else was. Then the cover further intrigued me, it features a bird trapped within a dome/cage. I think the by-line of, “Fear is her cage, but what’s outside is worse” it certainly has you thinking about who this feeling or being caged by their own fear and what could be even worse on the outside of their cage. The genres I have seen listed for this book are General Adult Fiction and Literary Fiction and though I agree with those I would also add Thriller, and Post Apocalyptic. In fact, I feel I should also add the book could be categorised as Speculative Fiction with some horror thrown in.
The book is set in a world that has been ravaged by wild fires, hit by a pandemic and more recently survivors are being dying because of what is referred to in the book as “them”.
The main characters in the book are Rachel, who lives isolated, very much by choice and is quite self-sufficient. To make a living Rachel sells her art which she makes out of blown and shaped glass. Rachel is the type of person who has a place for everything and everything in its place sort of person. Rachel doesn’t even go anywhere for supplies or to deliver her artwork, she has a woman called Mia who comes to her to drop off supplies and collect and deliver her art pieces. Mia has performed this service for many years, the only other person Rachel really interacts with is her older sister Monique who supplies her with medication for her anxiety. Rachel much prefers her own company and solitude. Rachel’s homestead is surrounded by a high wall with the only way in being a very visible pathway. Throughout all the recent problems of wild fires, Rachel has helped to fight them, then returned to her haven. Rachel has just begun to wonder where Mia is, that her visit with supplies etc is a little overdue when she hears a knock on her door. Rachel’s first reaction is to turn off the lights, and pretend no one is in. Hoping whoever it is will travel on to someone else’s property for whatever they need. The woman at the door has seen the lights on in Rachels home and is desperate for help for her baby son, whose cries of distress are the thing that finally push Rachel into answering her door.
The woman is, Hannah and she is alone with her ill baby Isaiah. She is desperate for help with poorly Isaiah who has a cough and a high temperature. Hannah’s husband works away in a nearby town, the other side of Nimmitabel, where Monique, Rachel’s sister lives with her partner Bill. Rachel allows Hannah and her baby to stay overnight but it soon becomes apparent that both Hannah and her baby need Rachel to travel with them if they have any chance at all of survival. Rachel agrees to accompany them to Nimmitabel where her sister Monique works as both Doctor & Vet. Rachel reassures Hannah that Monique will help baby Isaiah.
The book goes on to tell the story of the two women travelling in search of help for Isaiah, the people, problems and the trio trying to keep “them” out of their own heads so “they” cannot claim and kill the trio. Sadly, when they arrive at Nimmitabel, it seems they have missed Monique and Bill by hours. With danger all around them they decide to press on, with Hannah wanting to find her husband and Rachel wanting to catch up with her sister Monique.
I think this book may once have been read and perhaps some would have referred to the pandemic parts in it as being a little far-fetched. However, in light of the recent events and circumstances surrounding Covid-19, the pandemic references in the book are so very easily believable. The book seems to amble on rather slowly in some sections, yet it still kept me wanting to read more of the book. The whole “them” is kind of left to the reader to draw their own conclusions about.
To sum up I found this a really difficult book to rate, as though I did enjoy it, it also felt a little laboured in places. I felt the book was more about the growth and changes within the character of Rachel, and the fact she has to face situations outside her normal comfort zone in order to help Hannah and Isaiah. The fires, the pandemic, and “they/them” felt secondary issues in the book.