Publisher: Penguin UK
Published: January 9th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, Kindle.
Genre: Psychological thriller, suspense.
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
Ms. Lupton, you’ve broken me. This has got to be one of, if not the most, emotionally fraught books I’ve ever read. It has seeped into my soul.
From the first page we jump into the action as headteacher Matthew Marr is shot by a masked gunman stalking the halls of his school. The story then follows the stories of staff, students, parents and police, that play out simultaneously over the 108 minutes that the school is at their mercy. The writing is evocative, alluring, and almost lyrical; barely a word is wasted as you’re drawn into the living nightmare so vividly that I found myself actually holding my breath.
As a mother, this story is one of my worst nightmares; I can not begin to imagine the terror of having one of my children held hostage by gunmen, and pray I never have to. The author pulled me in, immersing me in the story and making me feel the characters’ terror. I saw myself in the frightened mother and the police woman, saw those who’ve taught my children in the teachers, and, most gut-wrenching of all, I saw my children in the students.
While at first glance this is a book about a school shooting, it is actually so much more. It is a multilayered novel that is also a statement on our political landscape and the hate culture being fostered by racists and extremists on both sides. The author also explores what drives the to commit such atrocities. How are they driven to violence, destruction and revenge? And how do they mask that hatred so the people around them never see it? She shows the harsh truths of these incidents, such as some people immediately pointing the finger of suspicion at the two refugee Muslim students and how, when the identities of the gunmen are revealed, they are seen as less than human and blame is put upon their parents for not doing their job right. She helps break down these stigmas and shows the beating heart behind those who some can be so quick to dehumanise. She also reminds us it is not only “bad” parents whose children commit evil acts and they are usually as shocked and distraught by what their child has done as everybody else.
But this isn’t a maudlin book, it is also incredibly uplifting at times as we are shown examples of astounding bravery, selflessness and sacrifice despite their fear. The very best of humanity versus the very worst. A reminder that there is more good in the world than bad, and what extraordinary things we can do when pushed to our limits and those we love are in danger.
I was left with a major book hangover after finishing this powerful masterpiece and cannot recommend it highly enough. YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. It is a breathtaking, intense, harrowing, moving and exceptional novel. I included Three Hours in #EmmasAnticipatedTreasure for January and it more than deserves not only it’s place there, but every bit of the hype it’s generating right now. Don’t miss what I think will be one of the best books of the year.
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin UK for the eBook of this novel in exchange for an honest review.