Free Press Journal

This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan: Review


This is How it Ends, is a meticulously conceived plot, packed with contemporary social issues, crime, drama and action. The story emerges as a psychological thriller cast through a social prism. Eva Dolan, a relatively newcomer in the crime writers’ block, has maturely woven the theme around a social cause, interlacing it with activism, crime and politics, rivalries, and relationships.

She has significantly highlighted gentrification, which is a burning problem in societies the world over, and its ills. So anti-gentrification movement finds a substantial focus in the novel. It is the reason for a spat between the activists and real estate developers, and cause for action, associations and protest in the story. And, how this movement along with the associated atmosphere manifests in a murder, is worth a read. Dolan has raised social and economic issues in her previous works as well. She has mentioned putrid living conditions of migrants with an underlying tonal anger towards authorities. The portrayal of protests, politics and opposition to exploitation, is similar. However, her version is nuanced, and expression measured, across her works.

The variety and action in the scenes keep the reader tied to the book till the end. As the story progresses, we discover several complexities in the plot, several twists and turns, which is unique. The separate presentations through the lead characters make the pace of the story little unwieldy. Nonetheless, the narrative is gritty and abundant. And Dolan’s writing is undoubtedly lucid and apprehensible.

As said, story unfolds through two characters Ella and Molly, going back and forth in time. Ella’s perspective looks back in time while Molly’s go forward, but the threads are timely pulled together connecting the past and the present.

Ella, a PhD student, is a passionate blogger and a social activist while Molly, a middle-aged woman, is a veteran political activist and photographer. She participated in the famous protest movement at Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in Berkshire, England in the 80s. Molly is characterized as a mother figure to Ella, taking care of her, pepping her up when she is down and giving her courage when she is scared. Meanwhile, Ella’s own parents are apparently not happy with her involvement in politics. “We have enough in common-hiking, rugby league, craft beers – we can spend hours together without mentioning our jobs,” Ella says about her father in a conversation.

The book opens with an impending eviction the residents of a semi-dilapidated tower (Castle Rise) in London are facing. Property developers want this block evacuated to raze it down, and subsequently develop luxury condominiums. ‘Three hundred gone, just six left..’ is the count of the remaining squatters after a huge number emptied the building. Both Ella and Molly are fighting against the forces to stop the evacuation, through social media and on ground campaigns despite death threats.

Amidst this situation, there is a sudden death of a man, whose body Ella finds out after returning from a rooftop party one day. She was celebrating with friends and supporters of her “kickstart” project off writing a book to raise a voice against gentrification, London’s biggest trouble.

The death becomes the epicentre of a series of events, immediate and subsequent. Panicked Ella calls Molly to her help and they together hide the body in a lift shaft of the bepicentre which they are fighting to save. Life does not remain the same since then. The repercussions affect the relationship between Ella and Molly, as mistrust seeps in. The mother-daughter bond slowly withers.

The story further shocks readers, with the much unexpected twist ever, in the culmination chapter – “This is how it ends”. “But she couldn’t let them see the fear churning in her stomach, the sick feeling which had somehow spread to her bones…”, is the suffocating thought that runs through Ella’s mind when she is waiting to be interrogated while the investigator goes to get
her boss.

Eye-opening revelations, investigation, contemplation, anger, physical brawl and many more comprise the concluding narrative, which goes into some 100 pages. It can be assessed as the most gripping part of the book. Who is punished in the end, and how the actions play out is the writer’s classic punch.

Although the alternate perspectives juxtaposed in the book through Ella and Molly, may wane the thrill, the unique and flamboyant storytelling hooks any thriller fanatic till the mystery is solved.