Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

The Instant New York Times Bestseller

Finalist for the National Book Award 2020

A Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Observer, Irish Times and TIME Book of the Year

A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong.

Soon to be a major global Netflix adaptation starring Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts

"You will probably need to read it in as close to one sitting as possible - Sunday Times

"A page-turner taking in themes of isolation, race and class." - Guardian

"A book that could have been tailor-made for our times" - The Times

"A literary page-turner that will keep you awake even after it ends." - Mail on Sunday

From the back of the book:

Amanda and Clay head to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a holiday: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they've rented for the week. But with a late-night knock on the door, the spell is broken. Ruth and G. H., an older couple who claim to own the home, have arrived there in a panic. These strangers say that a sudden power outage has swept the city, and - with nowhere else to turn - they have come to the country in search of shelter.

But with the TV and internet down, and no phone service, the facts are unknowable. Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple - and vice versa? What has happened back in New York? Is the holiday home, isolated from civilisation, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another?

My Review: 3/5 stars

This is one of the rare times that I have picked up a book and began to read without having at least glanced at the synopsis or plot summary. As it was chosen by another book club member, I decided to dive right in which I believe helped in my tolerance of the book. For me, this was a story that seemed to lack focus. The entire novel seemed like a set-up for the "real" story which only began in the last 20% of the book.


I am by no means a prude, but there was a lot of sex and sexual descriptions at the start of the book (even of the children's bodies) that really did not add anything to the plot or necessarily interesting insight into the characters. When the Washington's first appeared at the house, there were two chapters that deftly touched on racial bias and social constructs, but those disappeared rather quickly.  And lastly, other than feeling a bit sorry for the son who was losing his teeth, I felt more for the people who were fleetingly referred to dying and trapped in New York City subways or elevators than the actual members of the family.

I did not hate the book, but I did not love it either.  It did became a page turner in the second half because I wanted to know what was happening, but it also felt like a long set up to an actual story, the prequel to a dystopian novel. It will be interesting to see the coming Netflix adaptation with two powerhouse actors at the helm. I can imagine Denzel pulling off the sophisticated G.H., but will see if Julia Roberts and the script can make her character more likeable.

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