I am no stranger to apocalypse fiction, but despite hailing from The Land Downunder I haven’t consumed much Aussie apocalypse fiction (beyond ‘On the beach‘ in 2020). And if ‘The Last Woman in the World’ is anything to go by, then I have truly been depriving myself.
The story commences as the world is already falling apart, as various references are made throughout to the pandemics, the downfall of the USA, and communities decimated by climate change. As we slowly learn, in the midst of all this chaos, something else horrific has been unleashed and is quickly wiping humans off the face of the earth. But what we learn about this threat is slow and evolving, in the best possible way.
The protagonist of the story, Rachel, is a woman living in a remote cabin, off-grid, and avoiding society and the news due to her crippling anxiety. She spends her days enjoying silence, watching native Australian birds, and creating beautiful blown glass artwork.
It is not until a strange woman and a very sick baby show up on her doorstep that she learns the bad state of the world has turned even worse. Throughout the novel, Rachel must not only deal with the dark malevolent force extinguishing humanity, she must overcome her own fears, help the helpless around her, and return to a world that has irrevocably changed.
While the latest threat to the world is supernatural, it’s treated with logic and realism and not off-putting in the slightest. I did not have any trouble suspending my disbelief and going along with the story as it rapidly unfolded.
The Last Woman in the World was a sensitive, frightening, inspiring and beautifully written journey into how the downfall of humanity could reawaken the spirit. I’m not surprised to learn that Simpson is not just a fiction writer; she’s also a nature writer, and it was wonderful to feel so at home in the natural world that she described.
5 anatomically correct glass hearts out of 5.