Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

A moment of stillness; as if time itself is waiting, can no longer be measured.

– Opening sentence

Thanks to Viking for granting me access to this book via NetGalley.

Three Hours is only the second book I’ve read this year, but it’s going to be a tough one to beat. Truly exhilarating, I couldn’t focus properly at work today because I simply couldn’t shake it out of my mind.

Set in a secluded school in Somerset over the course of three hours, the day starts like any other. But when a student, Rafi, witnesses a small pressure-cooker explode in the wooded grounds, he is the first to notice something isn’t right.

Not long afterward, the headteacher is shot, and the school is plunged into terror. The unfolding events are narrated through various characters including the staff, students, parents, and police investigators – immersing the reader into the heart of the action.

Although an obviously unsettling book, the true themes of Three Hours are of love and humanity; “…love is the most powerful thing there is, the only thing that really matters…”. A mother’s love for her son; a teacher’s love for her students; a teenage romance; an unbreakable bond between two brothers who have already experienced more hardships than most – these narratives shine through the dark as beacons of hope and inspiration to the reader.

At its core, Three Hours is a gripping thriller about a school shooting. But it’s also so much more. Lupton so cleverly, so subtly, tackles themes of terrorism, radicalization, and racism. An easily overlooked but pivotal scene includes a group of parents discussing two Syrian refugee brothers, Rafi ans Basi, who attend the school. The story of these brothers is well known by all the parents, many of whom donated clothes and toys to them once they had been granted asylum in the UK. However, fear for their trapped children escalates rapidly into racist speculation; suddenly Rafi and Basi are to blame, as they have made the liberal and accepting school a target for Islamic extremists. This small scene covers only a few paragraphs in the book – but it’s so powerful and brutally reflective of today’s moral panics. This, for me, is what makes Three Hours something particularly special.

If you can handle the intensity, I would definitely recommend allowing yourself the time to read Three Hours in one sitting (I regretted starting this on my morning commute and having to wait a full working day before I could return to it).

But there are no regrets, or any he has are too piddling to take notice of, not when children turn into invincible trees and a man risked his life to hold your hand as you die.

– Final sentence

5 Stars (5 / 5)

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