***** - End of Story
END OF STORY
Too much imagination can be a dangerous thing
It has been five years since writing fiction was banned by the government.
Fern Dostoy is a criminal. Officially, she has retrained in a new job outside of the arts but she still scrawls in a secret notepad in an effort to capture what her life has become: her work on a banned phone line, reading bedtime stories to sleep-starved children; Hunter, the young boy who calls her and has captured her heart; and the dreaded visits from government officials.
But as Fern begins to learn more about Hunter, doubts begin to surface. What are they both hiding?
And who can be trusted?
MY REVIEW *****
In the author’s notes for End of Story, Louise Swanson says her inspiration came from Rishi Sunak’s ‘retrain from the arts’ campaign during the Covid pandemic. As someone who works in the theatre industry and was particularly upset by this tone-deaf message, I felt instant empathy with a world where all fiction books are banned and it also made it feel more realistic, which is never a good thing for dystopian, speculative fiction!
Our main character is Fern Dostoy, who had been an award winning writer before the government started its anti-story agenda. Now she has been forced to move, leave everyone she loved behind and is tracked at all times by government agents. Fern feels as though she has lost her purpose in life and is determined to fight back. The story is moving and gripping in equal measures and Fern is a great narrator to describe the loss she feels at being unable to write. She uses a technique where she doesn’t let a sentence finish before ending her writing session for the day, to inspire her to come back to it and this works really well throughout the chapters.
There are also some mysterious characters and you are constantly kept on the back foot trying to work out who is friend or foe. Is the nice tea salesman an ally? Can her ex-author friends be trusted? Who are the agents and how far are they willing to go to protect their anti-fiction agenda? We are left with questions at every turn and is it gripping. I can’t give away any spoilers about the end, but I sobbed for the last 20% - the ending is brilliant, and the entire book is so well paced and plotted to make that conclusion as hard hitting as possible.
In a word - End of Story is fantastic, and I will be shouting about how good it is to everyone I know. It’s my book of the year for 2023 so far and a must-read for all lovers of fiction. Thank you to NetGalley & Hodder & Stoughton for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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