“Wonderful and sweeping, with a fabulous sense of place and history” – Kate Mosse
“An enthralling account of a calamitous time, and above all a wonderful testimony to the strength of the human spirit. I was caught from the first page.” – Julian Fellowes
When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorsetshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and religious fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness.
But who can explain the deaths of innocent newborns? Is God so angered by His creations that He seeks to destroy all mankind?
There is one who rejects this idea: Lady Anne of Develish.
Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarity among women, being both literate and knowledgeable about Christ’s teachings of love. With her brutal husband absent from Develish at the time the news of the pestilence reaches her, she takes the decision to look for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. Well-versed in the importance of isolating the sick from the well, she withdraws her people inside the moat that surrounds her manor house and refuses entry even to her husband.
She makes an enemy of her daughter and her husband’s steward by doing so, but her resolve is strengthened by the support of her leading serfs … until food stocks run low and the nerves of all are tested by continued confinement and ignorance of what is happening in the world outside. The people of Develish are alive. But for how long? When will the time come to cross the moat? And what will they discover when they do?
Compelling and suspenseful, The Last Hours is a riveting tale of human ingenuity and endurance against the worst pandemic known to history. In Lady Anne of Develish, Walters has created a memorable heroine, educator and heretic.