The Last Woman in the World
REVIEW: Inga Simpson's new novel The Last Woman in the World takes up many strands that are present in her previous work: love of nature, yearning for peace and solitude, quest for meaning, dislike of crowds, distrust of modern culture and a quiet anger at our complacency in the face of our destruction of the natural world.
Having said that, The Last Woman in the World is also very different from her previous books. Simpson has written a fast paced, heart in your mouth, edge of your seat, dystopian thriller. Which, though unexpected, makes so much sense. Simpson's anger and despair at the way we treat the world could not be restrained forever.
I hesitate to use the word dystopian. I mean we're already in the midst of a global pandemic, temperatures are hitting record highs, fires are burning out of control everywhere, even Siberia, parts of the world are experiencing unprecedented flash flooding, extreme weather events are becoming the norm and politics is trending to the extreme. On and on it goes. How much more dystopian can things get?
The Last Woman in the World isn't set far in the future, it doesn't have to be, it feels like it's set next week or next summer, our present is enough of a springboard for Simpson.
The book opens with a knock on the door of an isolated house. A woman holding a sick baby brings terrible news and is asking for help. Rachel, a self-sufficient recluse is presented with a choice, to continue to think only of herself and hope the woman in need takes her troubles elsewhere, or to take pity on the woman and risk losing everything she has fought so hard to build.
Simpson's love of nature is evident throughout. It's part of what makes this novel so effective. The trauma of the recent bushfires in Australia is the foundation of the novel. The devastating loss of fauna and flora. Our helplessness in the face of nature's fury. The pain is real. The fears for our future are real.
Simpson is angry and wants us all to understand what we are risking.
The Last Woman in the World is an intelligent, well written, thoughtful, full throttle, action packed, journey through our worst fears which actually had me pausing to catch my breath. Loved it.