Last One at the Party by Bethany Clift – Review
By Ceri Saunders
The year is 2023. Just three years after Covid-19 stopped the world as we knew it in its tracks, a much more deadly virus, 6DM (standing for Six Days Maximum – the longest you’ve got before your insides destroy themselves and you’re dead), has swept the globe.
We follow the story of an unnamed female diarist who, as her friends, family and co-workers succumb to this unstoppable disease, finds she has very little reason to be on this planet. Her husband is dead. Her parents are dead. Her lover is dead. Mobile phones are useless. There is no World Wide Web. Communications beyond basic human interaction come to a grinding halt. Suicide pills are freely dispensed at chemists across the country to put people out of their inevitable suffering.
Bethany Clift’s debut focuses solely on the story of one woman who has spent her entire life living through the gaze of others. And now she is completely alone.
But this isn’t your The Walking Dead– or The Last Of Us-type zombie thriller – this is a tale about what it truly means to be a human being.
“Left me grateful for the little things”
The diarist flits back to moments of her previous life – however seemingly fleeting, mundane or everyday, giving us the opportunity to know her perhaps better than she’s ever known herself. From mental health to relationships and coffee dates to makeovers, these life experiences have shaped who she is – or isn’t.
She is brutally honest in her lack of real-life skills. She can’t cook, hates to drive and doesn’t know the first thing about growing vegetables. When her friend suggests that she needs to get clued up and invest in a gun over a routine coffee catch-up, the suggestion is laughed off. But it turns out she was right.
After the initial excitement of having London at her disposal – including all the booze and designer handbags she would have ever wished for from Harrods – the main character eventually decides that if she is going to survive, she needs to start from scratch.
Reading this in a midst of a pandemic and at the beginning of yet another lockdown perhaps has its advantages – the plot and main character becomes more believable and, perhaps, even the prospect of civilisation coming to an abrupt end doesn’t seem all that far away from possible.
Fast-paced, tragic, wholesome and laugh-out-loud funny, Clift’s debut has left me grateful for the little things, excited for what else she has to offer – and making plans for my apocalypse bunker.
‘Last One At The Party’ by Bethany Clift is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99 hardback
Also available as an eBook and audiobook