The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson

by

Gabrielle has deliberately made an innocuous and mundane life for herself. But 20 years after her one and only brilliant novel was published, her secrets are in danger of being exposed.

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Dark and deeply unsettling...

Gabrielle lives an unremarkable life: middle-aged, her "work of genius" all but forgotten, living alone in the sleepy village she grew up in, and working as a housekeeper for the local vicar. Her lonely existence is dominated by memories of her best friend Madeleine, who died young, in tragic and mysterious circumstances.

Gabrielle’s quiet world is turned upside down when she meets and befriends Simon – young, attractive, a would-be writer, and enthusiastic fan of the astonishing novel that Gabrielle published all those years ago. Charmed and flattered, she recklessly invites him into her home and her heart. But Simon is mysterious and manipulative, and it’s not long before he forces Gabrielle to confront the demons in her past.

Gabrielle’s obsession begins to destroy her carefully cultivated life, and she comes to feel increasingly threatened by Simon’s presence. Who is he? Why did he seek her out? And what does he really want?

"I had to read on, I had to know what was going to happen. I was inside Gabrielle’s head, saw everything through her eyes and I felt her every emotion. It is dark and it is deeply unsettling."

- Emma R.

"The best thing for me about this book was that the ending did not feel rushed at all... There were lots of different layers to this book, and one that I found myself analysing, which in turn actually fits with the book itself."

- Bookmark That

"The Last Worlds of Madeleine Anderson is a novel about a writer, a fan and past ghosts that haunt them. It is about loneliness, creativity, past trauma and the destructive quality of secrets."

- Laura Laakso

"On Sunday morning he insisted on going out to pick up a newspaper before I’d started to prepare breakfast. While he was out, I couldn’t resist sneaking into his room to see what he’d made of it. His typewriter sat on the dressing table. I had an old typing chair he could have, and a small table if he wanted it. Beside his typewriter was a Moleskine notebook. I was tempted to imagine it filled with lines of deathless adolescent prose, but what did I know? For all I knew, he might have been a genius."

"But the branches of the trees overhanging the river whispered like the murmurings of a ghost. I didn’t believe in spirits, in any kind of life after death, and I knew that any ghost I thought I heard was my own conscience. I was alive and she was dead – where was the sense in that? I’d done so little with my life; the mark I’d made on the world was no more than a dirty thumbprint. But self-pity was even more loathsome than blaming myself for a death that wasn’t my fault."

Special Edition Extras

Literary gifts for fans of Helen Kitson's The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson.

  • Catch of the Day
    A poem by Helen Kitson.
  • Emily's White Dress
    A poem by Helen Kitson.
  • From Left to Right
    A poem by Helen Kitson.
    From a photograph in Paris was a Woman by Andrea Weiss
  • A Room of One's Own
    Virginia Woolf's important feminist essay arguing for both a literal and figurative space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by men. Originally published in 1928.
  • Mary Mary
    A poem by Helen Kitson.
    In 1968, 11-year-old Mary Bell was convicted of the manslaughter of two young boys. She was released from prison in 1980 and given a new name. In 1998, the fact that she had a teenage daughter was leaked to the press.

Why you'll love The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson

Below the skin, this story is utterly gripping. The mystery is slowly opened out, like a complex origami creature being unfolded. The pacing is excellent – the first big revelations are revealed at exactly halfway through the book – and right to the very end you still don’t know for sure what will happen next. This is an artful post-modern story where truth – as in real life – is both subjective and objective, and it’s left up to you to decide what it is.

It is eminently readable and accessible, with some great vocabulary, well-drawn characters and is an imaginative tale about ordinary people (a few of whom are writers). Because ordinary people are extraordinary too.

Reviews

I really enjoyed this book, despite my dislike of the main characters, which goes to show how unique a writing-voice the author had.

Broken Geek

I read this in one day, when I was supposed to be doing other things, but I found myself often cutting my duties short just so I could read on. It’s engaging and more-ish. The best thing for me about this book was that the ending did not feel rushed at all. I was slightly worried when I could feel there weren’t many pages left, but it felt complete upon closing it, and not the usual rushing. There were lots of different layers to this book, and one that I found myself analysing, which in turn actually fits with the book itself. I’m very intrigued as to what this would be like on a re-read, so I’ll be picking it up again as soon as possible.

Bookmark That

The writing is brilliant, it lured me in almost immediately and I felt tangled up within the plot, not knowing where it was headed, not particularly liking the characters, but yet not willing to be released. I had to read on, I had to know what was going to happen. I was inside Gabrielle’s head, saw everything through her eyes and I felt her every emotion. It is dark and it is deeply unsettling.

Emma R

I will be forever grateful to the world of book blogging/reviewing for allowing me to read books that would normally pass me by - and that is exactly how I feel about this book which had me well and truly spellbound from the moment I picked it up and I'm still thinking about the characters many hours later and cannot recommend it highly enough!

Karen Mace

There's a strong thread about the destructive power of secrets and guilt - the latter also an indulgence. This is to name but a few of the themes and motifs - others include the necessity of both truth and harmless lies, depression and isolation, the insidious desire to compare ourselves with others and occasionally live vicariously.

J.A. Ironside

News about The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson

The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson by Helen Kitson is a post-modern tale of friendship and fate, where the truth is only a simulacrum of itself. It's probably literary, but it's far more accessible than that suggests.

When an attractive, mysterious and manipulative young man charms his way into Gabrielle’s deliberately innocuous life, she is forced to examine some of her greatest regrets. True to her character, she does so by omitting some.

Helen Kitson

Helen lives in Worcester with her husband, two teenaged children and two rescue cats. Her first poetry collection was nominated for the Forward Best First Collection Prize. She has published three other poetry collections and her short fiction has appeared in magazines including Ambit, Feminist Review and Stand. She holds a BA (Hons) in Humanities.

Helen's debut novel The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson was published in March 2019. Her second "Morevale" novel, Old Bones, was published in January 2021.

Helen's favourite novel is Dracula by Bram Stoker, and her favourite novella is Reunion by Fred Uhlman. Her top poet is Sylvia Plath.

More about Helen Kitson

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