Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.
It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.
It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.
It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.
Towards last year I found myself with an afternoon to spare and this book on my Kindle. I settled down with a cup of tea to read.
Three hours (or so) later I emerged from the book, my tea as cold as the weather outside, untouched.
Reader, this book is utterly absorbing, utterly terrifying, and one you will be utterly unable to put down.
I’ve been meaning to write a review of this book since December. I keep picking up the draft, then putting it down again, unable to find the right words.
It’s quite an experience. The subject matter was never going to make this an easy read, especially as a parent. We’re sadly all too familiar with the scenario from news stories in the US, but Three Hours‘ setting in a school in Somerset almost makes it more shocking. This isn’t something we’d expect to see here, making it all the more shocking.
Told over the course of the titular three hours, this is a complex, multi-layered narrative told from multiple viewpoints – the head teacher lying gravely wounded, the students trying to save him, the teenage Syrian refugee trying to find his little brother whilst the gunman stalks the halls. Relationships between the young students are brought to the fore, magnified and focussed by the ever-present threat of death, of life being snatched before they’ve had a chance to truly live.
It’s beautifully written, nail-bitingly tense and at times, heartbreaking. It will also be on my books of the year list, I can guarantee it even now.
Put it on your list. Hugely recommended. Solid five stars.
Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton was published by Penguin in January 2020. Many thanks to the publisher for an advance ebook via NetGalley