Book review

Last Chance by Patrick Cave (2002)

It's surprising what you can do if you really have to, don't you think?

Julian's cool. His father has walked out and left him with a cash card, two Fuzzballs and the twins, but it's not a problem. He can cope. No-one's going to take his family away from him. All he has to do is carry on as though nothing has happened.

It's a bit like trying to juggle with too many balls. If Julian drops one, the whole thing will cascade round him. There's his own life to keep going, the successful maths and the cross-country training, and his six year old twin sisters, who he loves to bits. He's got to keep them happy, clean, fed and watered. He has to provide for them when the cash runs out, and the only way he can do that is to get his father's hare-brained betting system to work. He has to fool the cleaning lady, the school-run, and the two schools into thinking his father is still around.

And that's only the beginning of it. The pressure builds. The first thing to change is his patience and good nature with the twins:

I had been too soft with the twins. I wasn't a one-man-show for their oddness and their bloody games.
'Just get out of bed, get dressed, come downstairs, eat breakfast, go to school. That's all you have to do. It's easy. Don't sulk. Don't try to be different. Don't pretend you can't do it.'

He needs to keep his distance from so many people in case they suspect, but is surprised to find himself drawn to the self-effacing Hayley. And before he knows it, he's relying on her, whether she likes it or not.

Watch Julian fall apart. It's not only the increasing obsession with betting, as if it will solve all his problems, it's the preoccupation with his nutty neighbour and the Fuzzballs, of all things.

All you have to do is decide how much is real, and how much is imagined, in his disturbed state of mind ...

What a brilliant book! I couldn't turn the pages over fast enough. Highly recommended.

What can I read next?

Patrick Cave has written another book. You might like to have a look at this one too:

  • Number 99

If you enjoy a psychological element, you might like to look at this superb work by David Klass:

Or this frightening story by Philip Gross:

Or perhaps this gentler, but no less psychological book by Tim Bowler:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Last Chance features in these lists: