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Title: The Waiting Rooms
Author: Eve Smith
Published: 9th of July 2020 – Orenda Books
Format: Ebook – 379 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
Guess what? It’s still cold and rainy in France, so yesterday we lit a fire and it’s been lovely being all snuggled under blankets with the fire roaring. I know it’s June but that doesn’t count lol!
I’m bringing you another Orenda Books tour today, I did my first one last month and really enjoyed both books. I jumped on the opportunity of reading this book because the blurb intrigued me so much and I’m glad I gave it a shot!
Decades of spiralling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable: a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms.’ Hospitals where no one ever gets well.
Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything.
Because Kate is not the only secret that her birth mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.
Sweeping from an all-too-real modern world to a pre-crisis South Africa, The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.
The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith is described on Goodreads as a dystopian science fiction, however, I would be inclined to say that it is a thriller and speculative fiction. When I read the blurb for this book a few months ago, I knew I wanted to read it, it sounds scary, it sounds like what is happening at the minute, and I just wanted to know all about it, I’m so lucky I got the chance, it was great!
In this book, the world as we know it has been completely transformed by an antibiotic crisis in which even the smallest of scratches can kill you because of the resistance we have built up against antibiotics over the years through our consumption of animal products or from being prescribed them for coughs or colds. It’s scary, but it’s also true, I think this can hit quite close to home, but it’s definitely a topic which has been making more and more frequent appearances over the past years. In this book, we follow Mary, Kate and Lily, during the daily events of their lives.
Kate is a nurse, but she no longer works in a hospital that cures and saves people, she works in one of the Waiting Rooms, in which people go when they are going to die, and you can now put an end to your life by signing a directive and swallowing a glassful of flavoured product to stop your heart.
Lily is an old lady in a “care home”, one of the places older people go when they are either nearing the age of “cut-off” – when a person reaches the age of 70, they are no longer given any antibiotics because of the resistance they have worked up – or have gone over this date and are just waiting to get ill and die.
Mary is a young scientist who studied at Oxford University and is now doing her PhD in botany in a nature reserve in South Africa. She meets Piet Bekker, an ex-ranger and now scientist trying to combat diseases and work out how to stop a resistance to antibiotics, while trying to save people dying from a new deadly strain of TB. During this TB pandemic, the two get close and eventually, Mary tries to help him find a cure.
This book is set mostly in the UK, but some chapters are set in South Africa. We have three narrators, 2 of which are very original and probably not very reliable, you’ll have to read it to find out why. We also get some chapters pre-Crisis, going back up to 28 years and going back down to 5 years before the Crisis, when the Crisis hit and after the present-day events of the book (Lily and Kate’s chapters).
I absolutely adore chapters that go back and forth between characters but also between different timelines, and I have to say that the addition of mixed media with the various news clippings, adverts and such were extremely important in understanding what was going on at the time, back when Mary’s chapters began and going on chronologically when the characters didn’t narrate the story. I found these to be really relevant to what is happening today, it’s rather scary, I’ve been reading so many books with pandemics and apocalypses lately, and it definitely is worrying when you realise that all the warning signs were there. These topics don’t bother me in the least, but if you are sensitive to these issues, I would stay clear of this book as it is very descriptive of the problems and can hit close to home.
We also have some chapters set in South Africa, around 28 years before the antibiotic crisis. I loved these chapters, they were so interesting but they also provided some really interesting and important political background to the story, also providing an insight into characters such as Mary and Piet, showing what they did as scientists trying to stop the curb of the pandemic and find a cure, but also their relationship as they got closer.
I can’t really go into too much more detail than I have in case I give some spoilers away, but I will say that I felt that each character was very relatable in this book. They all have to go through their own struggles, and they all end up coming to the same conclusions, that the world has changed and they can only try to do their best.
I felt that Kate was my favourite character throughout, maybe because we get to see her as she goes through changes, she has to deal with her career as a nurse and knowing that she can’t save people anymore, only help them to pass on, and even when she has to come to terms with more personal issues, she just keeps pushing on. Her husband Mark and daughter Sasha were always there for her and I really enjoyed her chapters.
Mary and Lily were very interesting characters, and I can’t say too much more, you’ll know why if you pick this book up, but I loved all their chapters as we learn so much about them. I was really intrigued by all the botanical aspects in Mary’s chapters and it was actually quite scary reading Lily’s thoughts as a patient nearing the age when doctors can no longer help you and you are basically going to die.
Death: If you are squeamish or sensitive about death, I would not read this book because there is quite a lot of it. Through the eyes of each character, you see how people around them get ill and die, how they are helpless to stop the inevitable and how quickly life can spiral out of control. This was actually quite surreal to read about because of the current Covid-19 pandemic that is still raging around the world, and I think you can definitely see how more events like this could happen in the future if we don’t make radical changes and start taking precautions on a daily basis. There are quite a few occurrences where the characters witness death, so just be aware if you want to read this book.
Pandemic: As soon as you start reading this book, you realise just how bleak life is for people in this world, after years of pandemics, crises, resistance against medication and antibiotics. The book starts when pandemics have been ravaging the world population for years and hundreds of new proceedings have been put in place, from air filters and antiseptic sprays in hospitals, houses and cars to wards designed especially for the dying. If you are struggling at the moment with the current pandemic, I would stay away from this book because it can bring back a lot of fear and uncertainty, especially with the way that people have to live with restrictions, tests and social distancing. I’ve been aware for a few years about people worrying about the amount of antibiotics we all consume every year, and I can say that this book definitely awakens worries when you see just how much damage it can provoke, and I think the author did an amazing job with the world-building, all the scientific elements, research, the setting and the plot, it was eerie and so interesting to read.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, this book surprised me a lot, I was expecting it to be quite eerie and strange, but I didn’t expect to be completely hooked and just keep turning the pages. It seems like this could be what we are facing at the minute and it definitely brings back questions about more restrictions and precautions we need to impose and take in our daily lives.
Again, if you do not like reading about disasters, death, poachers, pandemics, illness, helping people to die, fear, and loss, I would urge you to stay away from this book because it is very heavy and it can hit quite close to home.
I gave this book 4.5 stars, I loved it and enjoyed reading it so much, I was completely immersed. The writing style was fluid and kept me pushing forward and reading as fast as I could. It’s quite a complex book with some sensitive and complicated topics and events, but I definitely think it’s a brilliant book which is worth reading if you do not trigger easily. I loved the structure and I thought that the plot twists were well executed and kept me on my toes. I would highly recommend to anyone who loves thrillers, medical thrillers, a dystopian setting, and who isn’t squeamish.
Thank you so much to Karen from Orenda Books for letting me take part in this tour and for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this post, see you soon, stay safe,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – EVE SMITH
Eve Smith’s debut novel The Waiting Rooms was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize First Novel Award. Eve writes speculative fiction, mainly about the things that scare her. She attributes her love of all things dark and dystopian to a childhood watching Tales of the Unexpected and black-and-white Edgar Allen Poe double bills.
Eve’s flash fiction has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and highly commended for The Brighton Prize. In this world of questionable facts, stats and news, she believes storytelling is more important than ever to engage people in real-life issues.
Eve’s previous job as COO of an environmental charity took her to research projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and she has an ongoing passion for wild creatures, wild science and far-flung places. A Modern Languages graduate from Oxford, she returned to Oxfordshire fifteen years ago to set up home with her husband. When she’s not writing, she’s racing across fields after her dog, attempting to organise herself and her family or off exploring somewhere new.
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Amazon US – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Kobo