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.
Hi and welcome to my review of Three Hours! Hugest thanks to Ellie @ Penguin for the tour invite and for sending me a beautiful review copy!
I’ve been a fan of Rosamund Lupton’s work ever since I read Sister in 2016. More than three years ago, yet I still vividly remember the big reveal, and how shocked I was. However it wasn’t just the thrill of the twist that made me give Sister five stars, it was also Rosamund’s writing style. I feel she writes all her stories in a very understated manner, with this kind of underlying threatening tone. No need to hammer the message home, she does it subtly, elegantly, but just as effectively.
Signing up for this blog tour what I was expecting to get from Three Hours was a good thriller at the very least, probably a great thriller, but to all intents and purposes “just” a thriller. I don’t mean that to sound derogative, I love thrillers that unpretentiously entertain, captivate and / or shock me for a few hours and then let me go. Three Hours, however, is not that kind of thriller. Oh it did entertain, captivate and shock, no question there! But it also unnerved me, it undid me, it held me captive even when I wasn’t reading and I had to take breaks from reading because it felt too claustrophobic, too intense, with the setting – a school in the woods in the middle of a blizzard – only adding to the tension.
A school is under siege. Students of varying ages are trapped in various buildings, kids in the library are trying to keep their headmaster alive, barricading the doors with books and their own bodies, the little ones in the pottery room are playing house with clay while their teacher clays up the windows so the shooter won’t see them, teenagers are rehearsing Macbeth in the only safe space, the school theatre, because anything is better than just sitting there, and one boy with PTSD is trotting through the snow to make sure his little brother is safe. Is there a lone gunman aiming at them, or are there more shooters, who is doing this and why? The parents who drove up to the school in a fit of panic have been rounded up by the police and are anxiously waiting for news, the dad of a courageous girl still in his pyjamas, the mum of a missing boy playing out their conversations in her head, the dad who is quick to blame the Syrian refugees. Meanwhile the police are working against the clock to find and apprehend the shooter before he goes on a rampage.
Three Hours doesn’t wade in gently, in the very first paragraph the headmaster is shot at:
A moment of stillness; as if time itself is waiting, can no longer be measured. Then the subtle press of a fingertip, whorled skin against cool metal, starts it beating again and the bullet moves faster than sound.
This bullet kicks off a story that absolutely terrified me. Truth be told, I’m terrified for the world sometimes, there are so many, too many examples of people, ruining other people, taking lives, high school shootings, terrorism, … People who want to hurt other people for reasons that I find ridiculous, but they consider matters of life and death. So many people with the worst of intentions, people with an ultra-short fuse and radical views and it’s so easy, too easy nowadays for anyone to get their hands on guns, to build their own bombs from scratch, to find support with other likeminded, narrowminded people all over the world. I have to admit, I make like an ostrich and put my head in the sand when it comes to these kinds of news items, ‘cause they make me curl up into a little ball of anxiety and hide under a blankie.
Three Hours didn’t allow me to do that. It yanked me out of my comfort zone so fast my head was spinning. It provoked a visceral reaction, filling me with dread, a desperate need to know who was behind this siege and why, and an overwhelming want for everyone to be okay, for the good to kick the bad’s ass all the way into next Tuesday.
In its own understated, non-sentimental way, this is a very emotional story, not only because of the current events, but also through the background story of the characters, particularly Rafi and Basi’s, the Syrian refugees. About halfway through the book I had a lightbulb moment, and it made things so much worse, adding to the trepidation I was already feeling. When the thing (sorry, have to keep it vague!) I had feared came to pass, I literally burst out in tears.
Three Hours is not just 180 minutes, it is 305 pages that broke me. From that very first sentence it gripped me and then it slowly started to unravel me. It’s thought-provoking (I know I’m always saying that, but what can I say, books make me ponder things). It is a timely, important story about a devastating event, but it’s also a story about love and courage, and stepping up, not because you have to, but because it’s the only thing you can do, regardless of the consequences for yourself. Highly recommended.