About the Book
Anne’s life is rushing to an unexpected and untimely end. But her diagnosis of terminal cancer isn’t just a shock for her – and for her daughter Sigrid and granddaughter Mia – it shines a spotlight onto their fractured and uncomfortable relationships.
On a spur-of-the moment trip to France the three generations of women reveal harboured secrets, long-held frustrations and suppressed desires, and learn humbling and heartwarming lessons about how life should be lived when death is so close.
With all of Helga Flatland’s trademark humour, razor-sharp wit and deep empathy, One Last Time examines the great dramas that can be found in ordinary lives, asks the questions that matter to us all – and ultimately celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, in an exquisite, enchantingly beautiful novel that us to treasure and rethink … everything.
Two years ago I read and reviewed A Modern Family by Helga Flatland and found a writer whose words resonated with me in such a powerful way. I knew I had to read anything of hers that I could so as soon as I heard about her new book One Last Time I immediately signed up for the blog tour and have been eagerly anticipating getting lost in Flatland’s writing all over again.
One Last Time is about three generations of women in a family told from the perspective of two of them. Anne is the matriarch who has struggled in her own life after her husband’s stroke at a young age. She wasn’t a perfect mother and her daughter Sigrid seems unable to move on from the perceived slights in her childhood. Mia is Sigrid’s daughter and while we don’t hear from her directly we see a lot of her in the novel. One Last Time opens with Anne being diagnosed with cancer and the fallout from that.
I adore the way Flatland captures the reality of family dynamics and the way she explores the fragility of memories. It’s heartbreaking at times how Sigrid reminds her mother of something not done in her childhood but then we see Anne’s viewpoint later on and realise what Sigrid doesn’t. We see behaviours echoing through the generations as Mia mirrors both Anne and Sigrid but neither sees themselves in her actions.
I did wonder if this book might be too hard for me to read as I lost my own mum to cancer a few years ago but actually Flatland has this remarkable ability to write about such a devastating topic but find a balance between the light and dark.
I found it hard to connect with Sigrid at times, she seems very detached and aloof but there are moments when you see her pain and heartbreak and your heart breaks with her. She clearly loves her mother but she wants an apology for her childhood, and yet she can’t articulate this. I remember the immediate aftermath of my mum’s terminal diagnosis and I had so much I wanted to say but it all got stuck in my throat and it was choking me. It seems like Sigrid feels a lot of that through the novel.
It was fascinating seeing Anne through Sigrid’s eyes and then hearing Anne’s perspectives but also seeing what Sigrid is like as a mother. It captures the reality of life so movingly – the way we can only see things from our own point of view and it’s near impossible to really get a sense of how it was for someone else, how hard it might have been for them. I found this aspect of the novel so poignant, and so relatable.
This is a novel that made me cry quite a few times. Flatland has captured so beautifully how women in a family relate to each other and what it is like to have the bottom fall out of your world when you learn you mother is dying. The novel is never depressing, never overwhelming – it’s just a beautiful, tender exploration of the grief that comes with approaching loss. I have to commend the translator Rosie Hedger too as this book never feels like a work in translation, it’s incredible!
One Last Time is my favourite novel of 2021 so far, I know it will be a novel that stays with me for a very long time to come. I highly recommend it!
Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.
You can find the rest of the tour at the following blogs: