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 heart-warming 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 urges us to treasure and rethink … everything.
For fans of Elena Ferrante, Maggie O’Farrell, Mike Gayle, Joanna Cannon, Sally Rooney and Carol Shields.
Maybe it was because I haven’t been able to travel abroad as much over the last couple of years, but I am being increasingly drawn to books in translation that take me to faraway places and allow me to immerse myself in their culture and locations as I read them. I absolutely loved Helga Flatland’s ‘A Modern Family’ and could not wait to read ‘One Last Time’ as soon as it was published. I was absolutely intrigued by the premise of this book and to see that no matter where you are in the world, coping with a situation like this has no borders and is a situation that we can connect over wherever we are in the world. I was delighted to be invited on the tour by Anne Cater & Random Things Tours and couldn’t wait to share my views on this emotionally resonant read…
This book definitely did not disappoint, it grabbed me and pulled me right into the story even when it was a hard read at times due to the fact that there are so many people that I know and love who have had to walk the same sad steps as Anne, Sigrid and Mia. I was really emotional at several points in the book and feel that this could not have been handled with more sensitivity by the writer. You feel part of this very private journey from start to finish and see the way that these issues can be handed down from generation to generation as silences and gulfs in understanding can define the way that relationships evolve, even at the most challemging points in our lives
I absolutely loved the emotionally resonant atmosphere of this novel and definitely found it hard to put down. It is not a topic that is handled enough in fiction as there will be so many readers out there who will recognise the relationships and conversations in this novel – sometimes the most impactful thing is the restraint shown in the writing as we see all of the things that aren’t being said and I guarantee that you will be rushing out to buy a copy as the writing is so evocative that in a time when we have had to stay apart from our loved ones for such long periods of time, it really reminds you about the power and impact of human connection and the way that our hearts can speak even when our mouths remain silent
Even though some of this novel deals with familiar family situations, it does it in an original way which makes the story linger at the edges of our consciousness even when we aren’t reading it. All three of these women feel very much like real people – rather than mechanisms to explore a story about a diagnosis like this – which I’ve often found in novels which want to get people turning the pages This is a really unique novel which has to be ‘felt’ to be understood. I am in awe of Helga Flatland’s writing that makes you feel the way that generations can repeat the mistakes and habits that they’ve learned from the generation before – and that even though the mother daughter relationship is well-documented in fiction, this still feels fresh and original as you feel so connected with these characters
Helga Flatland is an intriguing writer – it’s hard to talk about this novel and really convey a sense of the family relationships here and the way that they come to life, so I’ll just need to tell you that you must read it for yourself. You will be drawn into the way that your way of looking at things can change overnight at a time like this, yet you might not have the power of language to be able to convey all these new ways of feeling too. It is a story filled with tiny moments that add up to its sense of believability– emotions and feelings start to accumulate and you’ll completely identify with them – your relationship with the characters builds and builds as you experience the challenges and constraints of their circumstances and remember all of the times when you might not have dealt with these big emotions as well as you would have liked to either.
One Last Time asks us to think about the way that our relationships and family dynamics shape our outlook and perspective and doesn’t allow us to dismiss these characters as mere constructs – this novel never stops feeling like a real story. The emotion and empathy inherent within this tale is something that you cannot fail to appreciate and because it’s so immersive I found its emotional challenges very rewarding and couldn’t stop thinking about the way it reflected some of my own experiences with grief, loss and the ability to connect with those I love the most – I really connected with Sigrid, whose silences often showed a lack of being able to put her feelings into words that she can speak out loud, rather than a lack of emotion in the first place…
This is a book that I know I’ll be recommending to lots of readers as I was totally immersed in its characters, its message and the way it really made me think about my own relationships and struggles at times. I can’t wait to see what Helga Flatland does next. The idea that every generation lives inside the ones before and after it, like a set of Russian dolls is a compelling one that’s easy to relate to and I think that this would make an excellent Book Group read as it would be sure to provoke lots and lots of discussion and refection about an issue that proably isn’t talked about enough in the society we live in.
Congratulations must also go to the translator Rosie Hedger as she undoubtedly does a superb job of capturing the emotions and relationships within the narrative which make it such a hugely rewarding and affecting read. Thank you so much to Karen from Orenda books for always making sure that I’m reading books from outwith the narrow confines of the UK and for introducing me to such a diverse and wonderfully written array of translated reads.
Writer On The Shelf
Helga Flatland is one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards.
Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.
A Modern Family marked Helga’s first English publication when it was released in 2019, achieving exceptional critical acclaim and sales, and leading to Helga being dubbed the ‘Norwegian Anne Tyler’. One Last Time is her second book to be translated into English (by Rosie Hedger), and published in 2021.