Title: The Language of Dying
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Publisher: Quercus Books, Jo Fletcher Books
Read: December 2016
Tonight is a special, terrible night. 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. As the clock ticks in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her...
A daughter sits at the bedside of her dying father, holding his hand, pouring out her heart to him for the last time. He can no longer hear her, but that is ok, there are still so many things to be said, so little time to say them. The final good-bye.
Very gently, despite the heat and energy raging at me from outside, I kiss your head. I leave my love there forever [...]
As the family gathers for the last time in their old family home, it becomes obvious that their father was the glue that held them together. Without his presence, cracks are already beginning to show, even whilst he is still clinging to life, his body slowly wasting away, the strong man of their childhood now only a dry husk.
[...] It’s crystal clear that we’ve fallen apart. We’ve fallen apart and we didn’t even have the good manners to wait until you’d gone before we did it.
As the siblings each try to come to terms with the loss of their parent and say the final good-bye, old grievances come out, tensions rise, arguments erupt. In the end, there is only the middle daughter left to hold her father’s hand in that last, terrible vigil.
The Language of Dying is a beautifully written book which will speak to anyone who has ever had to watch a loved one die, or is caring for a terminally ill family member. Written in the narrative of a daughter talking to her dying father, the book touches the very centre of the heart, where our love, our grief and our heartbreak live. Pinborough has a way with words that is both touching as well as evocative, exploring the desolate, lonely place only death can bring us to. Most of all, it is honest, baring the soul and exploring that most feared of all situations – losing a loved one. There is a mystical, supernatural element to the story, too, which will mean something different to every reader, but which for me embodied the terrible and yet compelling power death has over us. Whilst The Language of Dying is sometimes confronting, bringing us face to face with our own emotions and fears surrounding death, I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever had to say their final good-bye to someone they love. A powerful, emotional read, one of my favourites for the year.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.