The Last Village is based on the real village of Old Marsden which was built by the Whitburn Coal Company in South Tyneside in the 1870’s and demolished by the 1960s with only the lighthouse shown on the book cover still remaining. Audla English tells her story from the perspectives of Anna in the recent present and her grandmother Lily just after the Second World War.
The story flits between now and then and read to me very much like a memoir at times, rather than a work of fiction. I did feel that if it weren’t for the chapter headings, I might have found it difficult to distinguish between the voices of Anna and Lily as both had a similar way of thinking and talking and were written in first person.
I thought the relationship between Anna and her Gran was particularly well depicted and the love and respect they had for each other was clear. Audla English has given an excellent evocation of life in the 1940s North East mining community. The houses with their small yards and the lane at the back of the houses, with the children so excited when a delivery was made, were easy to picture. There were lots of details about the food people were eating, the clothes they were wearing etc and on occasion I felt that there was a little too much detail given. The author described a way of life that has passed. Indeed, by Anna’s time, a whole village which has gone.
However, as we see through Lily, times gone by do live on in the memory. This was a sweetly, romantic story particularly the tale of Lily and Red. In many ways, the stories in the past and present reflected each other with two young couples preparing for their weddings and beginning married life. Both couples faced similar decisions showing that when it comes to love and life in general, sometimes things don’t change much over the years. Through listening to her grandmother’s story, Anna comes to realise that treasuring family and friendship is more important than financial success for her.
This was a relatively short and easy to read story and if you like family sagas, particularly with a historical slant, you will enjoy this book.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and for a arranging a review copy of the book. The Last Village is available now in paperback and ebook formats. You can order a copy online here: The Last Village
From the back of the book
The majestic Souter Lighthouse stands proudly at the edge of the cliff top surrounded by open grassy empty fields and overlooking a vast blue wilderness. Anna Charles knows nothing of the life that her grandmother once had here.
It wasn’t until an unexpected engagement, that Anna discovered the past of her Gran and the truth behind an enduring love.
Seventy years earlier, Lillian Smith, had been part of the close-knit community that once thrived in the village that existed next to the lighthouse. A chance meeting with a sailor one day, would change the course of her life forever.
A moving novel set in the North East of England. The Last Village is an enduring love story which spans the 1940’s and modern day, binding the generations.
About the author
Audla English grew up in the North East of England.
Born in Sunderland, a graduate of Newcastle University and living in South Tyneside, she is passionate about this wonderful region which acts as an inspiration to her writing.
Her award-winning debut novel ‘The Last Village’ is a dual time-line historical fiction and is written as a dedication to the now sadly demolished Old Marsden Village which was built by the Whitburn Coal Company in the 1870’s. The Marsden Rock coastal setting is also used to weave a family saga style narrative around a beautiful part of north east England.
The novel is a moving love story about the life of Lily, a young woman growing up with her friends in 1945 whereas the other side of the story, in 2017, is about Anna and her own discovery of her grandmother’s past life- it is a novel which spans and binds the generations through family and friendship.