The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough reviewed

The Language of Dying Book Cover The Language of Dying
Sarah Pinborough
Quercus Books
01 December, 2016

A woman sits beside her father's bedside as the night ticks away the final hours of his life. As she watches over her father, she relives the past week and the events that brought the family together . . . and she recalls all the weeks before that served to pull it apart.

There has never been anything normal about the lives raised in this house. It seems to her that sometimes her family is so colorful that the brightness hurts, and as they all join together in this time of impending loss she examines how they came to be the way they are and how it came to just be her, the drifter, that her father came home to die with.

But, the middle of five children, the woman has her own secrets . . . particularly the draw that pulled her back to the house when her own life looked set to crumble. And sitting through her lonely vigil, she remembers the thing she saw out in the fields all those years ago . . . the thing that they found her screaming for outside in the mud. As she peers through the familiar glass, she can't help but hope and wonder if it will come again.

Because it's one of those nights, isn't it Dad? A special terrible night. A full night. And that's always when it comes. If it comes at all

The opening of this tale by Sarah Pinborough is very simple and powerful. A woman is watching her father dying. Over the course of the book she is visited by her elder sister, her two younger brothers (twins) and her older brother. The house she is in is now owned by her but was their family home in the past. Her story reflects not only on the current situation but also on incidents in the past.

The family is/was somewhat more dysfunctional than most. The funny, moving, family foibles are gradually revealed. The reflections are interspersed with current time. The title of the book is accurate – much of the story uses the words connected with the “language of dying”. The discomfort of society in dealing with this language is very clear in places. Into this mix is thrown a touch of madness maybe and a little fantasy. Even if this is not absolutely clear I did find it worked well for me.

I read this book in under 24 hours and will remember it for far longer than that. It is one of the best books I’ve read in the last year. And yet I find it hard to work out exactly why. The writing is the key I guess. I found it wonderful and ethereal. The woman’s dialogue – internal and external – caught hold of me completely.  It covers a subject which many of us will have been through ourselves in some way (if not the dysfunctional family aspect!). The fantasy and edginess of the book appealed a lot. The ending while not unexpected left me satisfied. Ultimately the simplicity of this tale coupled with the power of the writing made for a beautiful read for me.

Note – I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review