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This is the Life [Paperback]

Alex Shearer
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Feb 2015

Even when you have received a death sentence, you still have to live…

“Life just seems like a big party sometimes, at which we all gradually get edged to the door, and then we are out in the cold. But the party continues without us…”
This is the story of Louis, who never quite fitted in, and of his younger brother who always tagged along.
Two brothers on one final journey together, wading through the stuff that is thicker than water.
Tender-hearted, at times achingly funny, This is the Life is a moving testimony to both the resilience of the human spirit and to the price of strawberries.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Door (12 Feb 2015)
  • ISBN-10: 0007529732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007529735
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 430,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

‘This is a lovely touching book. The subject is a poignant one, handled with tact, insight and, most of all, with love’ Alexander McCall Smith

‘Beautifully done… A fine book on mortality and siblinghood’ Broadcaster Libby Purves

About the Author

Alex Shearer was born in Wick in the north of Scotland, and now lives in Somerset. He has written for television, radio, film and the stage and is the author of many books for children, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize shortlisted The Speed of the Dark. Several of Alex’s novels have become films and TV series, all over the world; one became both a manga comic and a full length anime film in Japan. His books have been translated into many different languages.


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
This item has not been released yet and is not eligible to be reviewed. Reviews shown are from other formats of this item.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching, funny and wise 2 April 2014
By Sid Nuncius #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I thought this was an excellent book. The story is a "much fictionalised" (the author's words) account of Alex Shearer's experience of the death of his brother. It sounds grim, but it isn't - I found it very readable, extremely funny at times and very, thoughtful and wise. There is a very narrow path to tread in a book like this between flippancy on the one hand and mawkish sentimentality on the other, but Shearer never puts a foot wrong, I think. I have had more experience of watching family members die of cancer than anyone really ought, and this is one of the most enjoyable and most insightful things I have read about it.

The story is a simple one. The narrator flies out from Britain to Brisbane where his brother, whom he has not seen for many years, has a brain tumour and is in the last stages of life. It doesn't sound like much of a plot, but I found it very gripping. What makes this so good is that Shearer writes very well in an easy but deceptively profound way, and he captures so many aspects of a death like this with a light touch but genuine insight. I laughed out loud several times, and often nodded in recognition of both how people behave and at the narrator's own thoughts. Shearer catches brilliantly some of those things which take you off guard - that terminal illness doesn't mean people's annoying traits go away, for example, or that the situation can be infuriating, hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. He has some lovely, humane interludes of the narrator just mulling things over and also some very sharp, pithy lines like "hospitals are no place for the sick and vulnerable."

Shearer neatly presents the behaviour and attitudes of others to the illness, too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is the life. 14 Mar 2014
By the lambanana TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The rather well written story of the last few months of a brother's life.

It comes to us all death and in this particular book the death is of a young man and the impact upon his brother.

It does have some humour but overall it's not an uplifting or heart-warming story.

It is possible to consume it in one sitting, but it left me a little sad overall.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Depressing, enchanting. 16 Feb 2014
By Book Critic VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, maybe one of these days soon, when the world is quiet again, you might understand what it is you need to understand. But really, you know you never will. And you'll be baffled until the day you die. And even then you might never find out. You're like an ant crawling over a manuscript. You aren't even aware the words are there, let alone able to read them."
This is the Life is an ode to a dead brother - based a real one, as detailed in the epilogue: The origins of This is the Life.
Louis, the brother, is not an easy man to live with and never was, not from childhood; a man gifted with many talents, but lacking the most important one: how to cope with life. His less talented but more capable brother, who has always had to pick up the pieces left in Louis wake, flies to Australia to care for Louis, who is dying from a brain tumour. He finds a man living in a self-created chaos of bad choices and ruined relationships, filth, vermin and non-functioning white goods. In the midst of the mess he has made of his life, Louis remains exasperating, maddening, still loveable.
It's a heartbreaking tale. It's not an easy read, but it is beautifully written. The dirty, dreary everyday misery is interspersed with quiet musings on the pointlessness of life and death and dying. Expect to be depressed, but also enchanted.
"Louis, my brother, always went places first, being older. And then, after a time, I would follow. I expect he'll still be wearing the beanie hat. He'll probably say, 'What kept you?' One of us will know what to do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very moving 21 Jan 2014
By Mrs. M. Stamp VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A short book with a lasting impact. "This Is The Life" was inspired by Shearer's brother's death and I felt as if I was intruding on his own, personal grief as he describes here the last few months of a man's life. It seems as intimate as a diary at times.
Louis has had surgery for a brain tumour and his younger brother flies out to Australia to be with him and care for him.
Unless I missed it, the younger brother remains unnamed and is just referred to as "Louis's brother". This made me really feel that it is mostly non-fiction and the author's own experience. As Shearer states--being defined as simply being related to someone else is the inevitable consequence of "coming along later and not having the sense to get there first!" But the dominant, older sibling role is reversed as Louis's condition deteriorates. How often that happens with children and their aging parents; and in the same way Shearer describes how even the strongest bonds can be tested at such a time.
Louis appears to have always been a bit odd, rather verging on the autistic spectrum but he did have lots of good friends and as we learn more about Louis's life in Australia it provides the reader with a detailed and moving eulogy.
The book is supposed to be "achingly funny". I found it amusing at times but not laugh out loud. It is also promoted as a book which will move you to tears. It certainly did that. It is extremely moving and a wake-up call for those who forget that life is transient.

This is the Life
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit of wry reality
This book is a little different. Focusing on two characters, brothers, it is the reflection on life the two take when one of them is diagnosed with cancer, in their late forties /... Read more
Published 23 days ago by A John
1.0 out of 5 stars Not to my taste, Sorry
I personally could not get into this book. I appreciate the good reviews for it but I found it very difficult to read. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Claire, Lulu
5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written
The subject matter for this book - a fictionalised account of Shearer's bother's last few months as he succumbs to a brain tumour doesn't sound promising, but it is so beautifully... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Don Panik
4.0 out of 5 stars Two brothers - one dying
Alex Shearer is better known for his children’s novels – and he brings the limpid language of children’s writing to this fictionalised account of the months he spent in Australia... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Emily - London
4.0 out of 5 stars Such is life
This is a novel based on the death of the author's brother. Unlike the weekend-supplement public spectacle kind of writing so popular ten years ago, this is makes few claims to... Read more
Published 4 months ago by El Loro
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the Life
A fictional work inspired by the death of the author's brother, this is a poignant memoir of two brothers spending time together before the older one dies of cancer. Read more
Published 5 months ago by nancytownsend
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I loved this book.It's one of those stories that jumps around in time a little so you get a really good understanding of it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Laura Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Reading group thoughts
Our reading group enjoyed this book very much, declaring it to be well written. Even though the subject matter is dark, it is dealt with sensitively and with great empathy for the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ann g
4.0 out of 5 stars My brother, my self
"Louis, my brother, always went places first, being older. And then, after a time, I would follow"

These are the cathartic reminiscences of Louis' brother told... Read more
Published 5 months ago by David Spanswick
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Such is Life'
This is the story of Louis, told by his younger brother. Louis, a university graduate never really fitted in and sat on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job,... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Gloria
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