The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have probably noticed that I’ve reviewed The Language of Dying before. I read the PS Publishing edition and utterly adored it. The novella is being re-released by Jo Fletcher Books today and as it is so bloomin’ good I thought someone else’s opinion might be worth exploring. Over to @MadNad for her thoughts…
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…
Like me, I imagine there are some authors you hate, some you like, some you love, and some you would read anything they wrote just because it came from them. I have four authors that fit into that category: Neil Gaiman, Mark Chadbourn, Joe Hill and Sarah Pinborough. What book was it that added Ms Pinborough to this exclusive list? The Language of Dying. I read this novella a few years ago as it was previously released by PS Publishing, now sadly out of print. I was blown away, and not just by the story, but by the language.
I am sure that I am not the only person who, after consuming book after book start to see patterns, traits, formulas. After a while, you start to think, “You know what? I reckon I could have a go at this writing malarkey. They do say everyone has a book in them.” Then I picked up the Language of Dying. Within the first page, Pinborough’s writing had blown away the now dead and curling dreams of my literary ambitions.
The middle child in a family of five, a woman takes care of her dying father. As her siblings gather around for his final days, she recalls the past events of her life that shaped her present, her relationship with her father, and her relationship with her siblings.
The Language of Dying is beautiful and sad, poignant and harrowing. It is at times difficult to read as it feels quite voyeuristic. The narrative is delivered in first person by the protagonist as if she is talking to her father.
There is a supernatural element that does not dominate the narrative, but is enough to put the book firmly in the realms of dark fantasy. For me, the thing that drew me in was the fact that this book so eloquently scrutinises the family dynamic and the roles we all shoulder. Pinborough shines a light on familial relationships in such a way that there is no way you can read it without examining your own family.
My father (step-father actually), despite being only 5’6″, was always a big man in my life. He seemed huge, indestructible. He was always super-fit, being into martial arts and keeping fit, weights etc. The first time I noticed that he was getting old broke my heart. I am sure it’s the same for all daughters and their dads. The protagonist has to watch this man shrink and fail before her eyes. I can’t imagine having to do that.
Like a master, Pinborough effortlessly paints the picture of this dysfunctional family so clearly, I remember the first time I read this, I thought surely the author must have lived through this horror. The pain and observations of the protagonist were so acute, I felt this story was possibly autobiographical. I am happy to report that Mr Pinborough is alive and (I hope) well, having seen him at a launch back in April, and the poignancy is just further evidence of Ms Pinborough’s skills
I love other things I read of Sarah Pinborough’s, but this is probably still my favourite. Even if you have read the book before, I urge you to get another copy as this new release has been re-edited.