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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 10 October 2015
For anyone who has been through the process of watching a loved one die this so hits the mark! Not only that, the main characters are wonderfully described and I really felt sympathy and a link with the narrator. Beautifully written and a work of art!
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on 3 January 2014
I may be jumping the gun here but I think I've already read my personal best book of 2014. Having read a lot of Sarah Pinborough in the past couple of years I suppose I was expecting more of the same with this latest book. Boy was I surprised! This is a touching, heartfelt glory of a story covering events whilst a dysfunctional family wait the death of their father from cancer. Whilst it delves into the emotions released at times like this, it also expose fears and wishes I guess we all have when the subject of death is raised.

My wife and her family know what it is to watch a family member die from this terrible killer, having lost both her younger brother and step-father. We weren't together when her brother died, but I was there 18 months ago as we saw her step-father slowly fade over the course of a handful of months from an active, healthy man to nothing more than skin and bone. Within this book I saw the same happen to the father, it was both difficult to read and enlightening in a way because it gets the subject out there.

I urge anyone who's lost someone to cancer to read this book, even if you've not this is still a powerful story of a family trying to come to terms with loss.

Utterly brilliant.
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on 20 October 2014
Give it a go, it's an interesting read. Totally different to what I would normally download but I did enjoy it. It's a difficult subject matter but examines a range of relationships between siblings and parents.
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on 10 April 2015
A young woman sits and watches as her father lives out the last few hours of his life. As she watches her father slip away, she is left alone with her thoughts and memories of the past, as they all come flooding back to her.

“I think about that lost dignity you must be feeling and I want to tell you it doesn't matter. Not in the great scheme of things. This is just the end. It isn't the everything of you. And it’s the everything we’ll remember when the memory of this fades.”

This book may be a quick read in terms of page numbers, but in terms of plot it is the opposite. I am a big fan of Sarah Pinborough, I love her Fairytale Kingdom series so when I heard about this I immediately picked it up, thinking it might be something similar. I could not have been more wrong. This isn’t really a fantasy book. It is centred on the harsh realities of death. The young woman tells her story as if she is addressing her dying father, saying all the things she cannot say out loud. She deals with watching him decline, with caring for him, with having to gather her family for his last days.

It is an incredibly emotional and powerful book. Something that really struck me about is that although it’s only 150 odd pages, Pinborough manages to pack a whole lot in, there is an intense about of characterisation, and a lot goes on in such a short number of paces. It doesn't feel crammed in though, it flows well and altogether makes up a really special story. It has won awards for best novella, and as you can see it has one of the most beautiful book covers I have ever seen. I wish all covers were as beautiful as this one.

The book is written in a very realistic way, all the characters are written in very clear and distinct ways – all the siblings are very vivid and real. If you have ever experienced death of a loved one, this is an extremely important novel to read. I also think if you've never read any of Sarah Pinborough’s writing before, this is an excellent first choice. It’s hard hitting, but it will blow you away.
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on 15 August 2012
Every now and again, a book will come along and knock me sideways...

I'm sad to say I haven't read any of Sarah Pinborough's novels before now. I've been aware of her (as a writer) for a long time, just never got around to reading her books. A week or so ago, I was browsing the ebooks, as is my want, and happened across The Language of Dying. Read the synopsis, and with interest piqued, bought it.

Started reading it last night, and was instantly transfixed. I'm not sure what it was about that opening chapter...the cold sense of dread, of darkness waiting to devour the voice speaking, there was just something about the opening few pages which struck me still. It's a remarkably simple situation. A woman sitting at the bedside of her dying father. Then there's the hint of some horror lying beyond the window she stares out of.

And I'm hooked.

As it plays out, it becomes apparent the story is being told not to us as a reader, but from a daughter to her father. About her horrific marriage, the relationships between her siblings and how that has affected her as the middle child of five, and the darkness which she seems to carry throughout her life.

It's mostly about death of course. How it not only impacts on those who are dying, but arguably how the process effects those being left behind more. The fragility of life laid bare, as the now grown children come together through death. The interplay between these characters is quite remarkable writing, with the break down of each sibling never overplayed.

However, with all it's excellent character and storytelling attributes, this books main quality is found in its writing. The way in which Pinborough beautifully constructs sentences conveying raw emotion, ripping internally as you read them, is nothing short of astounding.

For a short novella, Pinborough manages to effortlessly draw you in and give you a reading experience not always seen in the shorter novel form. Not since reading Stephen King's 'Different Seasons' have I had such a visceral reading experience of a novella.

This is by far the best novella I've ever read. It's a reading experience like no other. Hours later, and I'm still turning over parts of it in my head. It's incredibly tough to read, especially if you've experienced the death of close loved one. I can't recommend it enough. This is the first of Sarah Pinborough's work I've read, yet with just a novella, she has crowbarred her way into my favourite writers list.

Go buy it!
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THE LANGUAGE OF DYING is quite simply a beautifully told story. At the heart of this short book there is the tale of a father dying, and his children gathering around to bear witness to his last moments. But, where there is death there is also life and so we also learn about the lives of this family; what tore them apart and what will bring them together. Our narrator allows us to see right into her heart as she ponders about her father's imminent death; what will it mean for her and her siblings, how will she cope and how does she make peace with the part of her which is willing him to die?

There is also an element of the supernatural/ magical. My favourite passage from this entire book is page 28 to 30. This is when she describes the time that she thinks she saw a unicorn-like creature outside her house. Quite simply, this passage is one of the most magical that I have ever read. Pinborough manages to make this appearance by such a unique creature seem so 'normal' for a book about the death of a father. Does she really see the creature, or is she somehow imagining it? Is she, in fact, mad? For the very reason that we never have the definitive answers to these questions, it makes the whole magic of the story so much more. You cannot help but wonder what the importance of this detail actually was.

I would highly recommend this novel. In ways, it is quite unlike anything I have read before. The simplicity, honesty and sheer intelligence of the writing is absolutely stunning. If you like stories to have a lot of action, this won't be the book for you. But, if you happen to enjoy books which have beautiful prose and a poignant study of family relationships, love and death, this will be the book for you.
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on 29 January 2015
This is my first Sarah Pinborough novel, and you know what, it was quite a good read. It is always difficult to say you 'enjoyed' a novel such as this - about a young woman caring and waiting for her father to die.

What was great though, was just how well the author managed to pull you into the world, the culture of rules people follow when someone close is days away from death. Cancer is use because it immediately draws the reader in as cancer must have affected every single one of us in some way. But the way in which the chapters structure so that little bits of insights into the siblings' lives really connects with you.

There is a little repetition and the way the book ends is a little surreal, but emotion plays a huge part of this short story and it was refreshing to be drawn into the woman's head and world. It asks questions of the readers: can you be as strong as she is? Could you so readily put your grief aside to care for a parent?
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on 28 December 2009
This is an excellent novella, one which could easily be mainstream but which contains a tiny thread of the supernatural to contain it within that genre. The story is told by the middle child of a family of five - not quite in one camp and not quite in the other - who is nursing her father in the former family home through the last vestiges of lung cancer. Her thoughts, feelings, actions; indeed, those of all the characters; are crystal clear, real. There is no doubt in the reader's mind that the character has lived this story, which roots it in everyday consciousness. The prose is precise, breathtaking at times, without being over-intense. The conceit of having the dying father referred to without as "you" seems inspired. The reader is right in the 'action', and the 'action' is tiny and personal and heartbreaking.

The supernatural element (probably more of a metaphor than anything else), doesn't feel necessary to this tale. It doesn't spoil it, but it doesn't add much either. Yet, conversely, this is also the most subtle piece of horror that I'm likely to read this year.

Beautiful, powerful, magical.
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on 26 August 2014
This book is a total revelation. I was gripped from the start. Several times, I had to stop reading and cry my eyes out and start again. With deft brush strokes Ms Desborough paints some believable characters and we feel what it's like to be the childless one, the one who looks after her parents, the dutiful one, even if we don't feel that dutiful. Brilliantly written. Everybody should read this.
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on 5 December 2013
A woman sits at her father's bedside watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters - all traumatised in their own ways, their bonds fragile - have been there for the past week, but now she is alone. And that's always when it comes.

Quite simply, this is a beautiful novella, a deeply felt and very moving exploration of family bonds and the ways they can be twisted, strained and - maybe - broken by death (even if that event hasn't happened yet). On a personal level, I found some of it difficult to read and I'm not certain it's something I could re-read, but that's not to the detriment of the craft on display. Indeed, Sarah's writing is so assured, the flow of the language is so right, that you read on even when you desperately want to look away or wipe at your eyes.

The unnamed narrator is the middle of five children. Paul is feckless, a man who goes with the flow and shuts down or runs away when life turns on him and Penny is glossy and keen on appearances, someone willing to suffer just so long as she doesn't make a scene. The younger siblings, Simon and Davey, are twins who have taken a different path to their brother and sisters, becoming addicted to various things. The narrator weaves amongst them - she's telling the story to their father, who is dying of cancer - as everyone gathers at the old family home for their Dad's last days and old bitternesses and comradeships are rekindled. The narrator feels kinship with her Dad, a man whose life never quite worked out how he wanted it to and even though we only get to see glimpses of him pre-cancer, he's vividly portrayed. In fact, the characterisation is the books key strength, with even minor players - the narrators ex-husband, the various nurses - so clearly defined that they remain vivid long after their part in the story is over. Paul is a fleeting character, present more by name and memory than physical being (as is Simon), whilst Penny is sad and funny and scared and strong. Davey, addicted and conflicted, really comes through as the story progresses, a kid who took a wrong path and the adult who's still trying to make better.

But the story stands and falls by its narrator and she's a wonderful creation. Still tortured by the abandonment of her mother when she was ten (with a childs perception of the event - "we all know in our hearts that it's our fault for not staying little for long enough.") she patiently awaits the return of a wild unicorn she believes she saw on that night, whose pounding hooves and breathing she keeps listening out for. She's also very aware that everything is in flux and that once their father goes, things will change forever and not necessarily the better -"Buried in the scent of fresh sheets and the warmth of my sister, I store each second safely away so that I can savour this time in the years to come."

With her own life - and innerself - in a state of turmoil (her failed, abusive marriage is painfully detailed and the image of her lying, bleeding, at the bottom of the stairs is one that'll stay with me for a long, long time), the book ratchets up the tension as the siblings leave and their father grows ever weaker. Trying to help him as he lies in bed, the narrator moves her fathers arms under the covers and worries she's hurting him - "Sorry, Daddy," I whisper, "I'm sorry, Daddy." - and that did it for me, even though it's not the end.

Not a novel for everyone, certainly, this is poignant and raw, loving and tender, brutal and beautiful and it will reward the reader who engages with it and, I think, it'll stay with them for a long time after they've put it down and cleared their throat and wiped their eyes. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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