Dying, A Memoir by Cory Taylor reviewed

Dying, A Memoir Book Cover Dying, A Memoir
Cory Taylor
Non fiction
Canongate Books
03 November, 2016


 Cory Taylor is one of Australia’s celebrated novelists, the author of the brilliant Me and Mr Booker (winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Pacific region), and My Beautiful Enemy (shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award).

At the age of sixty, she is dying of melanoma-related brain cancer. Her illness is no longer treatable. As she tells us in her remarkable last book, Dying: A Memoir, she now weighs less than her neighbour’s retriever.

Written in the space of a few weeks, in a tremendous creative surge, this powerful and beautifully written book is a clear-eyed account of what dying has taught Cory: she describes the tangle of her feelings, she reflects on her life, and she remembers the lives and deaths of her parents. She tells us why she would like to be able to choose the circumstances of her own death.

Dying: A Memoir is a breathtaking book about vulnerability and strength, courage and humility, anger and acceptance. It is a deeply affecting meditation on dying, but it is also a funny and wise tribute to life.

Can a book about Dying be considered beautiful? If I had any doubts on that Cory Taylor has removed them. The memoir starts with the simple facts that in her fifties she is diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. There are three chapters in this short book and the first hits hard. There is rational contemplation of suicide together with the possible consequences as well as comments on organisations dealing with assisted dying. She shares her thoughts on religion and dying and psychologists and dying. Her life before her diagnosis is contemplated particularly writing and travel (and food!). I found this thoughtful intelligent discussion on her situation – dying – thought provoking.

The second chapter looks at her close family’s life and background. There are ups and downs and probably things that all our imperfect lives are affected by.

The third part starts with reflections on Cory’s childhood particularly in Fiji. Her growing awareness of various aspects of her life and life generally are exposed. Issues with her parents and particularly her father are considered surprisingly calmly I think. That said the whole of this book exudes calmness for me. Beauty, love, fear, dreams are in all our lives in some ways however her writing on these was both simple and moving – it is about a life progressing to its end. I really wish my writing could do justice to this last chapter – sadly I am not the writer Cory was however I loved it. This reliving her life, considering the circularity of life “in my beginning is my end”, was powerful and beautiful. It ends with a “script for an ending”.

If you are someone who one day may die (…) then you may find this book a thoughtful and emotional read – I would recommend it.
Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review