Book Review of 'The Hour I First Believed'

2009-02-04 00:00

This is a novel that questions the issue of violence in society and explores the consequences it has on its survivors, the perpetrators and the public. It is a work of fiction but the author uses the real-life incident of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting where two pupils at the school, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, went on a killing spree, killing pupils and staff at the school.

Lamb constructs a story around this tragedy. Since that event, there have been many atrocities committed at schools, even here in South Africa, and society has been trying to provide a reasonable explanation for these random, senseless acts of violence.

This novel is about a teacher, Caelum Quirk, and his wife, Maureen, who both work at Columbine High School. When the shooting occurs at the school, Maureen is present in the library and witnesses the murder of innocent pupils and the suicides of the perpetrators. The novel focuses on the emotional breakdown of Maureen as she struggles to come to terms with what has happened. She experiences severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to the point where she can no longer function in society.

The only option she and Caelum have to piece their lives together is to relocate, and the couple move to a farm in Connecticut. It is here that Caelum embarks on a personal journey which unearths secrets from his own troubled past. The protagonist reaches a point where he has to forge a new life for himself by accepting the past and moving ahead. The novel is ultimately a quest for answers in a world that so seldom provides any. The Hour I First Believed is a New York Times number one bestseller and is a refreshing and interesting read that highlights the severe realities of life.

Qurasha Rajkumar

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