End of Story by Louise Swanson, published by Hodder & Stoughton (23 Mar. 2023), @LouiseWriter @HodderBooks and @HodderPublicity #blog #BookReview

Too much imagination can be a dangerous thing

It’s the year 2035 and fiction has been banned by the government for five years. Writing novels is a crime. Reading fairytales to children is punishable by law.

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?

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hodder & Stoughton (23 Mar. 2023)
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1529396107
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1529396102

End of Story by Louise Swanson is an outstanding book about a world where no one is allowed to write fiction. Authors are forbidden to operate and are punished severely for their crimes. In this surveillance state nothing is hidden from the authorities. Government officials visit with little or no notice—namely, two individuals Fern describes as “the tall one and the short one.” It’s a compelling book, set in 2035, revealing a cruel, totalitarian era where disaster is sure to come at full force. It’s almost The Handmaid’s Tale meets Delirium (Dare to Love) in that individuals must undergo disciplinary procedures to “cure” them.

Fern Dostoy, once a fiction laureate with a bright future, has been robbed of her house by the river and a lifestyle that once complimented her bestselling status. Hobbled to an existence that almost resembles imprisonment, she lives a nightmare of rules and isolation, longing for the old life; book tours, library events, the warmth of fellow authors, and someone of substance with whom to talk. So when a blue trainer, a tea seller (Fine-Fayre) and a notebook are her only companions, it’s easy to resonate with her grief.

When book lovers leave hints of Bedtime Stories in secret places, Fern sees a chance to reconnect with old friends. She begins reading a story a young boy to whom she becomes attached, a boy she’d already dreamt about. But it’s clear she cannot fly under the legal radar for long. The tall one and the short one will be back to take her away.

Her words kept resonating with me; “If you tell a story well enough, it’s true,” and it’s through these words I began to understand the mystery of her confinement. Thank God for Fine-Fayre and his mock-vintage van, depicting a picture of a family drinking tea and eating custard creams. I loved him! As I continued to follow Fern’s traumatic journey through the five stages of grief, hoping she would find a way out of her incarceration, I cried a lot, laughed a lot and wished the book wouldn’t end.

The book is multi-layered and complex, Fern’s tragedy unfolding with each chapter. But by the end, it provided hope. My husband kept asking why I was sobbing in a tissue—well, several actually—and I said it’s sad in a good way. It gave me an opportunity to address my own stages of grief and to come out the other side a stronger person.

The book is a prophetic and highly visual novel—a thought experiment about what could happen if fiction writers were seen as a threat to the government. But more than that, it’s a knitting together of “family”—Fern’s greatest loss. It’s true to say I savoured every single page. This is definitely a book you can’t afford to miss.

Thank you to Netgalley, the author Louise Swanson and Hodder & Stoughton for the privilege of reading this book.

About the Author:

Louise Swanson’s debut End of Story arrives in March 2023. She wrote the book during the final lockdown of 2020, following a family tragedy, finding refuge in the fiction she created. The themes of the book – grief, isolation, love of the arts, the power of storytelling – came from a very real place. Swanson, a mother of two who lives in East Yorkshire with her husband, regularly blogs, talks at events, and is a huge advocate of openly discussing mental health and suicide.

She also writes as Louise Beech. Beech’s eight books have won the Best magazine Book of the Year 2019, shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year, longlisted for the Polari Prize, and been a Clare Mackintosh Book Club Pick. Her memoir, Daffodils, was released in audiobook in 2022

Other Books by this Author (under Louise Beech)

Louise’s debut novel, How to be Brave, was a Guardian Readers’ pick in 2015 and a top ten bestseller on Amazon. The Mountain in my Shoe longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2016. The Sunday Mirror called Maria in the Moon ‘quirky, darkly comic, original and heartfelt’. It was also a Must Read in the Sunday Express and a Book of the Year at LoveReadingUK. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was described as ‘engrossing and captivating’ by the Daily Express. It also shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year and longlisted for the Polari Prize 2019. Call Me Star Girl hit number one on Kobo. It also longlisted for the Not The Booker Prize and won the Best magazine Big Book Award 2019. This Is How We Are Human was a Clare Mackintosh August Book of the Month 2021. Audiobook memoir Daffodils came out in 2022, and novel Nothing Else too.

Louise also writes as Louise Swanson.

Link to her website – http://louisebeech.co.uk/

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