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When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone Hardcover – 19 Apr 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (19 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140870398X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408703984
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.5 x 20.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 348,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

It is odd to call a book written by someone who knows they are dying uplifting and exhilarating. But such a book is Philip Gould's When I Die . . . What makes this book exciting, challenging and rewarding is his deeply personal account of how courage overcame fear; how he found in the incoming of mortality a fresh and invigorating purpose in life . . . Philip was always a great writer . . . This is a book that will give you pleasure and peace (Tony Blair New Statesman)

The book's power comes from the urgency and simplicity of the message . . . At a time when few of us know how to face the inevitability of our own extinction, Gould has provided an admirable model (Jenni Russell Sunday Times)

This was a brave man . . . In the old days, they used to say the dead always send a gift back as they leave us, so we should watch out for it. That is what happened here (Richard Holloway The Times, Book of the Week)

I read it in one sitting, and conclude that it should really be prescribed on the NHS. Even though it's a short and harrowing account of one man's dying, it also is the most life-enhancing book I've ever read (Rachel Johnson The Lady)

In politics, as in life, purpose is all. Nobody understood that better than the late Labour strategist Philip Gould . . . An extraordinarily moving book . . . inspiring in its discussion of mortality; it is also a manual for those undertaking any task, political or otherwise, and trying to make sense of it to themselves and to others (Matthew D’Ancona Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

Written during the last few months of Philip Gould's life, this is a hugely inspiring and ultimately uplifting look at his 'lessons from the death zone'

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his forward to When I Die editor Keith Blackmore describes the book by Philip Gould as his last great campaign. It's a campaign that pushes hard against the taboos of cancer treatment and death and asks us to appreciate those around us.

The book describes Gould's four-year journey with cancer in his own words with insight from his wife and children. It should be deeply depressing. It's anything but. It's a life-affirming story about a family and friendships. Gould battles with cancer to the end yet accepts and prepares for his own death completely.

It isn't an easy read. You will cry. But it is compelling. I read it over two evenings late into the night and early morning. I couldn't put it down. In time I'll re-read it again. Its a book I want to reflect upon and come back too. Georgina and Grace Gould's description of their final months, weeks and days with their father as he faces death are intense and heart breaking.
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I cannot recommend this book highly enough. By chance, I read a review of it in "The Times" and was intrigued enough to buy it. I didn't know what to expect but I wasn't disappointed.
Philip Gould tells the majority of his story about the cancer that ended his life in his own words ~ although it is left to his beloved family to tie up the loose ends after his demise. He was an excellent and compelling writer and he was brave enough to explore how the impending approach of his own death focused his mind and changed him as a person. He said himself, the aim of the book is to 'change the narrative about dying'. It certainly did that.
I have lost several much loved and important people in my own life to cancer ~ and reading Philip's book enabled me to understand some of the decisions that they made in their own dying process. It was if I suddenly understood, as if someone had turned on the light in a darkened room. For that I am grateful. I am also a cancer survivor ~ having been diagnosed with Chondrosarcoma (a rare primary bone cancer) in 1995.
We must all die someday ~ so read this book whilst you have time to ponder upon it and change your own approach to your inevitable death. I have just bought a copy of a previous book that Philip wrote before he was ill ~ I want to know more about the man.
RIP Philip. I wish I had been lucky enough to meet you whilst you were alive.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I became intrigued by this when I saw the interview on youtube, so I bought the book, and now I've read it.

The main part of the book is about his cancer treatment, and is very interesting. I would read a whole series of similar books on 'what it's like to die from x'. The main value Gould conveys here is that even though he was neurotic about pain and suffering to begin with, he discovered that one can endure it and still often enjoy life. The implication is that we should believe it of ourselves as well.

The part about the 'death zone' was the part I most wanted to read about however. The main intent of the book is ostensibly to 'change the narrative about dying'. Dying need not be about gradual decline and irrelevance. It is a time where everything is much more intense, and genuine joy and reconciliation can occur at the same time as fear and sadness. Certainly it convinced me that when I die, I want to see it coming with as much advance notice as possible. Here is a typically nice passage:

"Life becomes completely precious, not just because there is so little of it left but because the actual nature of experience is more fulfilling, more protean than it was before. I feel there are somehow more molecules moving around the room now."

Gould then says that the most important thing is to be honest and accept that you are dying. He doesn't say much about how one manages to accept death exactly. And it is clear that he feels fear, and is constantly battling against death right to the end. I think what he means is to accept death in the sense of genuinely believing that you are dying, and never ignoring it. Personally speaking, while I don't always think about death, I think I do genuinely believe that I am going to die.
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This book fundamentally takes the fear out of death. But also, what it does do, is stress the worth of living. Not to squander time or health. As a person who has lived through serious illness,I feel that Phillip Gould captured the detail of pain and the boring endless tripping on drugs you get in this situation. And how time shrinks and lengthens according to emotional states. Brilliant, I admire him and his family for doing this book.I only hope when my time comes I can conquer the fear as he seemed to do near his own time. A must read no matter your age or health.
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I read this book a few months after losing both my parents. Theirs were similar journeys to Philip Gould's but with different illnesses. I wish that I'd been able to read it beforehand as it would have given me so much information and comfort. But as his story was being played out, so were my parents. So hopefully those that read it in the future will gain those advantages.

As a book, it's certainly a success, being very readable and I defy anyone not to shed a tear. This book, without doubt is one way that he felt his death would be constructive. A positive outcome with such an ending seems unlikely, but the strength, determination to have his own destiny in his own hands and to create an informative autobiography, not so much of his life as his death will certainly serve to help others.

I pretty much know his family will be very proud of him. So they should be!
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