A Habit of Dying Paperback – 1 Feb 2011
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'This mix of superb research and writing credentials make the book a winner' * Your Family Tree * "An intriguing and enjoyable read.... a well-crafted exposition of the process of discovering family history" -- Katie Paxton-Doggett * Oxford Journal *
About the Author
DJ Wiseman has lived and worked in Oxfordshire since 1973. For the last 20 years he has had a passionate interest in genealogy, discovering his family scattered around the globe. He has travelled as far as Vancouver to find his grandfather's 'other' family - and written about his experiences for a national magazine.
Top customer reviews
Following Lydia's trail as someone interested in family history was a joy, for me it is the stories behind the names that tantalise me, and this book drip feeds the information in a way that truly imitates the sudden falling into place when the right pieces of the puzzle fit together, along with the stubborn brick walls when there seems no way to go any further.
The writing in the ledger was appears only to have come from experience so painfully and honestly did the writer illustrate their despair, a talented piece of writing indeed.
The book slowly builds up the picture of the people pictured at Lowlands, the writing in the ledger is a little more ambiguous and difficult to solve, like real life, sometimes it depends on your viewpoint to what the truth behind the lives really were. In modern day life Lydia makes some friends, some perhaps who will become more than friends and begins to live life in the present as well as the past.
"A Habit of Dying" begins when family history enthusiast Lydia Silverstream buys a collection of old photo albums from a local auction room. Her plan is to identify the family in the pictures, trace any living descendants and reunite them with their past. It's only when she starts to examine her purchase that she discovers a handwritten diary that seems to point to murder.
This is a neat idea for creating a believable mystery which can be plausibly investigated by an enthusiastic amateur. As the novel progresses, the stories of the people who posed for the photographs and sent the hastily scribbled postcards is gradually pieced together and, in an unexpected twist, the disturbing secret of the journal is revealed.
I loved "A Habit of Dying". It's well-written and, although set firmly in the present, the dependence on documents, photographs and even gravestone inscriptions gives it a satisfyingly old fashioned feel. It should delight family history aficionados and mystery buffs in equal measure.
On the surface it is an intriguing plot: Lydia, a middle aged woman with a compulsion for reconnecting people with family heirloooms, buys a box of photo albums and a journal at an auction. The journal chronicles a mental breakdown, possibly brought on by poisoning. We could have a murder on our hands and Lydia's meticulous tracing of every possible connection through the photo albums is the main substance of the story.
It's a geneologist's dream - so much so that rookies amongst us are in danger of getting lost in the meticulous detail. But it is also an exposition of the challenge of writing a thriller. Each time Lydia picks up a lead to run with it, she fights with her own motives and expectations to the point of self-defeat. What right has she to wade into another family's history with all the hindsight and evidence they were not privy to she asks, much like a crime writer might resist the perfect plot simply because he is in control.
And woven through the maze is the poignant story of Lydia's own gently declining life: why does she keep investing her energies in a past she is excluded from? Why reconnect families of strangers when she cannot connect with her own? The anxiety that any triumph she has over the past is paid for with her own future hovers over much of the novel.
Having said that, geneologists in particular - but also lovers of biographies and history - will enjoy Lydia's psychological journey and appreciate the authors mastery of the trials, tribulations but also rewards of this life-long pursuit to know more.
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