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The Last Hundred Days

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  772 ratings  ·  102 reviews
The socialist state is in crisis, the shops are empty and old Bucharest vanishes daily under the onslaught of Ceaucescu's demolition gangs. Paranoia is pervasive and secret service men lurk in the shadows. In The Last 100 Days, Patrick McGuinness creates an absorbing sense of time and place as the city struggles to survive this intense moment in history. He evokes a world ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 1st 2011 by Seren Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Given the choice to read this for an English class, I avoided McGuinness's book for two reasons: one, because I'm Romanian, and I was afraid I wouldn't be objective enough, two, because I'm Romanian, and I know how Western authors see countries from the former Eastern Bloc - inaccurately, pityingly, and always in the same manner.

I decided to give it a try during the holidays, though, and I was pleasantly surprised. VERY pleasantly surprised. Despite having a certain rhythm which becomes predict
On December 21, 1989, on Palace Square in Bucharest, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu gave what was to be his final speech. Ceausescu's decision to appear publicly at the balcony of the Royal Palace was a result of his profound misunderstanding of the national mood in Romania, which was finally beginning to collectively rebel against his 24 year rule. The belief that simply by appearing before his subjects, speaking the standard wooden language and promising inconsequential changes (such as r ...more
Sep 29, 2015 Zanna rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Zanna by: Jana
2.5 stars

The nameless narrator of this faux-memoir seems to fall from the sky into the last days of the Ceausescu regime and the massive gravitational field of the enigmatic Leo O'Heix, oafish, corrupt, generous bon viveur, embodiment of decadent bourgeois capitalism. This story is his, but as he is The Magician (surely this is one of the six/nine/twelve basic plots?) he needs to be observed in preternatural action and not endowed with psychology.

Like the narrator, Leo has no past. More accurate
This is the kind of novel I always dread it will turn this way but have to read since it's one of the few written by western authors about Romania; I have no idea how the author did his research but the country and period he described is just wrong - maybe he researched Stalin's Russia of the 30's since the 1989 Romania he describes here reads that way and it was not like that - as i lived through those times as a college student and they are still seared in my memory even after 22 years I found ...more
Oct 05, 2011 Elaine rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Very very atmospheric -- a wonderful job of conveying the isolation, decripitude, mania, hidden corners, and mad luxuries of a nightmarish Bucharest at the height of paranoia in 1989. The telling details are lovingly rendered so that you feel the city around you yet are never bored by the description. The city is the most wonderful and noteworthy character. And the "plot" is fairly clever and well realized. The issues come in (and this book was almost a 2 star instead of 3 because of them) for t ...more
The Last Hundred Days are those of Ceausescu’s Romania. The real historical events leading up to the Romanian Revolution are a scaffold for the fictional narrative. The story is told from the vantage of an expat Brit who was just looking to get a job and it happened to land him there during the last few months of the regime in 1989. The author, Patrick McGuinness, lived in Romania at the time and so would seem to have an insider’s authentic impressions. He is also a poet and writer, and professo ...more
The regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu was one of the communist era’s nuttiest and it was perhaps fitting that it ended far more violently than those other dominoes that toppled over two decades ago now. The leader’s very public final days and execution are covered in the last few pages of the volume and if the whole story is a familiar one, the detail of life in this most paranoid of societies is what really shocks – the stationing of huge circular saws underneath the surface of the Danube along the b ...more
Barry McCulloch
What a fantastic book. McGuinness manages to straddle the fact/fiction border with an engaging, easy to read narrative.

The characters are engrossing and relatable and the narrative effortlessly absorbing as the fall of Ceaucescu’s Communist reign comes to a bloody end. The real stand out in this novel is the language, not surprising given the author is also a Poet. From the very first page you realise you are in gifted hands:

“In the West we’ve always thought of boredom as slack time….Totalitaria
As is evident from some of the novel's reviews, both seen here and elsewhere, this book raises some interesting issues relating to the complex relationship between history and fiction. Set within a specific historical moment - the final (100) days of Ceaucescu's rule - the novel tells the (fictional) tale of a young Englishman's time in Bucharest. Offered a job at the city's university, despite having failed to attend an interview, and being presented on his arrival with a complimentary degree, ...more
Ok, Zanna (see below) has effectively written my review for me - scroll down, read it, it's very good, but I'll make some brief points.

Firstly, I know nothing about Romania apart from what I gleaned during episodes of Challenge Anika in the early 90s-orphanages? Disabled children? Yeah, that's it. The context, though, is something McGuinness is desperate to get in, though, often in a bit of a hamfisted way ('once she's had the miscarriage, though, he was subject to police questioning because in
Mark Staniforth
'The Last Hundred Days' is a smart chronicle of the months immediately prior to the downfall of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Patrick McGuinness imbues the story of grim, grey Bucharest with florid turns of phrase you would expect of a poet. The razor-sharp similies begin in the second sentence: the relentless monotony of crumbling Communist life 'tugged away at the bottom of your day like shingle scraping at a boat's hull.'
The framework for the tale of Ceausescu's demise comes in the
A thoroughly good read, I found McGuinness's prose lyrical and flowing - a good counterpoint to the clunky translation of my last read, and an encouragement to seek out his poetry - but he never sacrifices the story for the sake of a well-chosen phrase. The authentic miasma of communist eastern Europe seeped from the pages, and brought back vivid memories for me of Poland and the USSR in the 1980s, Fact and fiction were woven together so dexterously that I almost 'remembered' some of his inventi ...more
I managed to read just over half of this book before I completely lost interest in the characters. The initial setting was very bleak. Nothing was described without a succession of dreary, drab adjectives. I understood that the author wanted to create a soulless landscape but I felt it was overblown and exaggerated. The characters never really sprang to life for me. I did wonder at one episode where the main character decides at the last minute not to take a flight and is happy to depart knowing ...more
Tariq Mahmood
I found the story tough to follow with the plot hardly changing thus making it a difficult read. The Romanian experiment in socialism failed like all other experiments because the need for consumerism is far too great in man. Every man has to experience consumerism before choosing to reject it. Everyman has to have a personal stake in the system in order to feel part of the order. The plight of honest and hardworking citizens of Romania who tirelessly work for their people only to be exploited p ...more
this chilling book with its iiconruous humor will fills us in on everything we really didnt want to know about life in a collapsing totalatarian state.
Interesting to read the other reviews. I thought the book was exceptional. Cleverly written with serious doses of sarcasm, irony, clever turns of phrase, my favorite being dopplegangbang. Overall, McGuinness captures the surreal and bleak atmosphere of Romanian communism. Even the closing sentence has a realistic sort of resignation to it. As for the main character, in many ways he is a blank, the kind of blank that could find a life in the least livable place. The passages describing the destru ...more
What a fascinating and frightening era in history to have witnessed first hand. I think the novel did an amazing job of capturing both the reality of the situation and capitalizing on the intrigue and mystery of everything going on. At times it read a little like a spy novel, because it is difficult to keep tabs on all the corruption and changing allegiances, but then you are brought back to reality very quickly as the city falls apart and the people are suffering. Definitely my preferred way of ...more
I...sort of liked this but had major reservations about it. Firstly, I was intrigued by the setting but uncomfortable with the first person narration, because it was hard to figure out where fiction ended and fact began. The little I know of Romania around the fall of Ceausescu comes from the news stories at the time, and nothing in The Last Hundred Days seemed to contradict my (very outsider and ignorant) view of what happened.

The story is very readable, once you (or I) stop rolling your eyes a
Fred Garnett
I'm reading as many books about Romania as I can as I am now involved with the lovely people of CROS and their Learning House in Bucharest. Having finally read, rather than watched, Olivia Manning's Balkan Trilogy, I realised that it is pretty damning of Romanians, who are charming and delightful, and quite snobbish. McGuiness's book is nothing like that, although some of the reviews here seem to think that it is. I think Runa's review captures it well. As an English person having just read it b ...more
Veronique Zancarini
Pros: Even though the events related in this story are quite dramatic, the tone and style never fall into some over dramatic descriptions. The characters seem to accept their fate and/or make certain choices without ever trying to make tortuous explanations about their reasons. There are no goodies or baddies there (or more exactly, all of the characters are capable of the worst as well as the best). This in itself makes them realistic and more humane.

The Cons: the main character, young and inex
What an excellent first novel from Patrick McGuinness, using the clever device of an Englishman's immersion in the last few months of change in Romania to explore what happened and how it might have felt to a bizarrely mixed group of friends.

I wasn't entirely sure about it at first, as he takes time to build the characters and the storyline. However, this pays off, as events accelerate up to the eclipse of the old regime. He handles this well, capturing the uncertainty and lack of information th
Quirky and offbeat tale about a Englishman who gets a job he didn't apply for, as a lecturer at a University in Bucharest just before the fall of Ceaucescu. It's a outsiders view of a city in turmoil and a dictator state teetering on the brink.
Roger Boyle
Really very good, but in line with the new austerity policy I stop short of 5 stars.

The author is a literature professor and the story - of which he has first hand knowledge - is both compelling and largely true, so how could you go wrong? You can really feel the corruption and wretchedness, written about beautifully - marvellous!

No spoilers, but it's only in any sense attenuated by Leo being too far fetched for reality, a couple too many contrivances, and a failure until rather late in the boo
This book was a disappointment. Our "hero," a young British man, a college dropout, despised father recently dead, arrives in Romania to teach at a college in Bucharest. (This despite, or because, he never turned up for an interview.) He is in Bucharest for the year before the Romanian Revolution. He spends his time with Leo, a consumate black-marketeer, and the two women with whom he gets involved. The description of the dictatorship, the almost-total destruction of the city, the corruption and ...more
Review to come; homework first.
Apr 14, 2015 Terry rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Terry by: book group
"In 1980s Romania, boredom was a state of extremity. There was nothing neutral about it: it strung you out and stretched you; it tugged away at the bottom of our day like shingle scraping at a boat's hull."
And so starts the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and the pace. I am amused by some of the reviews: the Romanian who said the book was accurate, the person who claimed to be a student in Romania, at that time, saying it was rubbish and nonsense. How differently we all view the exact sa
Fine, I'll admit: the first thing that drew my attention to this book was the cover. And the title. Then I read the summary, realized what the setting was and became instantly intrigued. Though I've heard of and studied a lot about the Cold War and the days of the Perestroika, I didn't live through it (well, I did, but I was too young to care about some wall that was falling down), and the ins and outs of this time period in some far away country like Romania didn't even register in my radar. So ...more
Kieran Mcmahon

I read this book thinking it was a non-fiction work, an historical account of the authors own experiences in late-era communist Romania. (I read it on a Kindle, with a different cover, where the words 'A Novel' are less obvious that they are on the cover shown here!). Consequently much of my reading of this book was spent in a state of high incredulity at the unbelievable fortune of the author to have been in the right time and the right place so often, to have had an experience so that wa
Catherine Woodman
McGuinness translates his real life experiences in Romania in the waning days of the Ceausescu regime into this book, which is an on-the-edge-of-your-chair thriller that does what it's title claims walking the reader through the very bitter end of the most repressive regime in Eastern Europe.

The story is told through the eyes of a British national who is an invited professor at a Bucharest university. He quickly gets lapped up by those who are eager for change, and it doesn't take a rocket scien
Ian Young
The Last Hundred Days is set in Bucharest just before and during the fall of the Communist regime led by Nicolai Ceausescu. I read it during a recent trip to Romania, as one of the few books I was aware of with a Romanian setting (apart from various vampire novels!). It is the first novel of Patrick McGuinness, poet and Professor of Literature at Oxford University, who lived in Romania in the years leading up to the revolution. A reader can, therefore, assume that the general tone of the novel a ...more
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Rare gem - page-turning storytelling with poetic flair 1 3 Aug 17, 2012 09:36AM  
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“Life in a police state magnifies the small mercies that it leaves alone until they become disproportionate to their significance; at the same time it banalises the worst travesties into mere routine.” 1 likes
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