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The Last Hundred Days

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,253 ratings  ·  144 reviews
The socialist state is in crisis, the shops are empty, and old Bucharest vanishes daily under the onslaught of Ceaucescu's demolition gangs. The author creates an absorbing sense of time and place as the city struggles to survive this intense moment of history.Longlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.Shortlisted for the 2011 Costa First Novel Award.Longlisted for the 2012 ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 1st 2011 by Seren Books (first published May 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  1,253 ratings  ·  144 reviews

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Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The bleak, paranoid atmosphere of Ceausescu's regime in Romania is evoked as authentically as only someone who was there could make it. This semi-fictional narrative relates the final days of a corrupt, decaying society, where racketeering and trafficking flourish, and playing the system is necessary for survival. Under constant surveillance, everyone has hidden motives and no-one is to be trusted - a fine recipe for gripping, chilling suspense.

Leo told me after the first frosts: 'The C
Jul 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars....awesome novel debut...almost flawless
Sep 17, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Barry McCulloch
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
So this is one of those books that I want to like and feel like I should like, but then I just really hate it. I mean, I STRUGGLED to force myself to pay attention and just finish the damn thing. Really. It was hard slogging through it. And yet, I learned a bit and McGuinness has some great commentary (examples below) and so it deserves a good rating. I mean, it might be a 5 start book and I am just a nincompoop who struggled with staying awake to read it. But on the other hand, isn't it McGuinn ...more
Eric Brown
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A very enjoyable read, engaging on every level. It mixes the historical context of life in the last days of Communist Romania with the thrills of a Le Carré novel.
Jul 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
An average story set in the middle of a once in a lifetime revolution makes this novel unique and valuable, hence the awards. Granted McGuinness is a wordsmith and awfully talented but I feel this book does lack a fundamental story line. It feels very much like McGuinness is just going through the motions and perhaps that reflects his age at the time. One feels he would probably rather just get laid than understand the inner workings of the communist party. There is nothing wrong with that but i ...more
Jul 27, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Feb 15, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Aug 20, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Aug 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
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.
Mark Staniforth
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
'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
Sep 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Tina Tamman
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
Having been brought up in the Soviet Union, I know how happy the people were there - in the entire Soviet bloc - despite the difficulties imposed on them by the state. Foreigners fail to perceive this because on the surface everything was grey and hopeless. And although Patrick McGuinness lived in Romania for a couple of years (not at the time the Ceaucescu regime fell), he has painted the picture of an essentially grey and dull country, which makes his novel a grey and dull read, at least for m ...more
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a book that attracted me from its first pages, in large part because I was browsing it while I was still in London and so a little home sick, but also because of the writing style which made me feel literally at home between its pages.
As an Eastern European person myself I felt that I needed to read it so as to see whether the author's nationality had in any way affected the way in which the last 100 days of communism and my country were to be presented. I am happy to say that it did no
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
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Hoda هدى
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“People were free; intensively, dangerously, and perhaps not for long, but they were free.”
I just finished it. A masterpiece.
I want to write a very long review but I still need time to take it in. It’s heavy and it reminds me so much of all that happened in Egypt 8 years ago. I definitely recommend it for reading.
Aug 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pat-s-reads
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.
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, romanian
Review to come; homework first.
Kieran Mcmahon
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it

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
Jordan Phizacklea-Cullen
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
The prose is taut and the air remains thick with menace, but also an undeniable sadness tinged with hope in this thriller, which benefits hugely from the fact that McGuinness lived in Romania during the final years of Ceausescu's regime and therefore bristles with untranslated first-hand authenticity. A general understanding of the state of the nation leading up to the 1989 revolution will be required first however.
Ian Young
Jun 25, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Eleanor Greenwood
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is quite an unusual book in terms of its subject matter, the last days of Romania behind the Iron Curtain, but also in terms of the style of writing which, particularly at the start, would not have been out of place in an autobiography. In fact, given that the author was actually in Romania at the time of the events described, and draws heavily upon those experiences to vividly evoke a haunting atmosphere that chills the reader to the bone, it doesn't seem to be too much of a leap to sugges ...more
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Rare gem - page-turning storytelling with poetic flair 1 4 Aug 17, 2012 09:36AM  

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Born in Tunisia in 1968 to a Belgian French-speaking mother and an English father of Irish descent, he grew up in Belgium and also lived for periods in Venezuela, Iran, Romania and the UK. He currently lives in Oxford and in Wales teaching French and Comparative Literature at St Anne's College, Oxford.

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