Book Review: The Last Migration by Charlotte McConaghy

The Last Migration…

About the Book:

A dark past. An impossible journey. The will to survive.

How far you would you go for love? Franny Stone is determined to go to the end of the earth, following the last of the Arctic terns on what may be their final migration to Antarctica.

As animal populations plummet and commercial fishing faces prohibition, Franny talks her way onto one of the few remaining boats heading south. But as she and the eccentric crew travel further from shore and safety, the dark secrets of Franny’s life begin to unspool. A daughter’s yearning search for her mother. An impulsive, passionate marriage. A shocking crime. Haunted by love and violence, Franny must confront what she is really running towards – and from.

The Last Migration is a wild, gripping and deeply moving novel from a brilliant young writer. From the west coast of Ireland to Australia and remote Greenland, through crashing Atlantic swells to the bottom of the world, this is an ode to the wild places and creatures now threatened, and an epic story of the possibility of hope against all odds.

My Thoughts:

What a magnificent novel, truly unlike anything I’ve read before. I loved this one so much, it’s destined to be a life long favourite.

‘Today there is a huge landmass to our left, and it surprises me because there is no land on the chart I’ve been studying. As we draw close enough to see, I realise that it’s an enormous island of plastic, and there are fish and seabirds and seals dead upon its shore.’

The Last Migration is like a quilt made of sorrow, each new patch revealed adds another dimension to Franny’s story, a devastated life that bears the effects of intergenerational trauma and unresolved grief. My heart broke over Franny and just continued to do so as more and more of her backstory came to light.

‘Nothing should have to struggle so much. If the animals have died it will not have been quietly. It will not have been without a desperate fight. If they’ve died, all of them, it’s because we made the world impossible for them.’

The Last Migration is set in a time unspecified, yet it reads like now, with one big difference: almost all the earth’s wild animals – land, sea and air – are extinct. Sightings of animals in the wild are rare, the only survivors held in captivity for conservation and research. It’s horrific to contemplate, yet entirely plausible. This doesn’t read like dystopian fiction. It reads like a contemporary novel, which makes it all the more sobering.

‘If it’s the end, really and truly, if you’re making the last migration not just of your life but of your entire species, you don’t stop sooner. Even when you’re tired and starved and hopeless. You go further.’

Franny is on a mission to follow the last of the Arctic terns on what is expected to be their last migration from the Arctic to the Antarctic. She convinces a fishing captain to take up her quest with the promise that the terns will show him where the disappearing fish are. It’s a contradictory journey; protecting one species at the expense of another. But the journey that unfolds becomes so much more than any on the ship could have foreseen. The friendship that develops between Franny and the ship’s captain, Ennis, one of those great and enduring unions that stay with you. The love story between Franny and Niall one that will leave an indelible print upon your memory.

This novel is a stunning literary achievement. It brilliantly captures the intersection between humans and wildlife, between devastation and hope. In a world on the brink of environmental catastrophe, even the ends of the earth is not too far. The Last Migration is Australian literature at its finest. I have been highly anticipating this one since I heard the author speak about it at this year’s Melbourne Writer’s Festival and it did not disappoint.


Thanks is extended to Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of The Last Migration for review.

About the Author:

Charlotte McConaghy has been writing from a young age. She has both a Graduate Degree in Screenwriting and a Masters Degree in Screen Arts, and has worked in script development for film and television for several years. She has written a number of speculative fiction books but The Last Migration is her first literary novel. She lives in Sydney.

The Last Migration
Published by Penguin Random House Australia – Hamish Hamilton
Released 4th August 2020

25 thoughts on “Book Review: The Last Migration by Charlotte McConaghy

    • Despite the topic, it doesn’t feature that. The quote I provided about the island of plastic and one instance of a turtle getting caught in a fishing net but being set free (thankfully) was it. It was more that the wildlife were mostly gone, and there was a lot about the effects of that. It was an emotional read though, just beautifully written. She’s a talented author and I’m looking forward to the next novel she spoke briefly about in her MWF talk.


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