A Preparation for Death by Greg Baxter

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A Preparation for Death by Greg Baxter

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: A story of a life the writer is dissatisfied with that leaves the reader feeling much the same way.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 224 Date: July 2010
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0141048437

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I've always been slightly wary of autobiographies which are written whilst the subject is still relatively young. They can often feel incomplete, particularly when you know the author is still successful in their chosen career. Frequently they are also written from an immediate perspective which time can alter thanks to hindsight.

All this aside, I was quite looking forward to Greg Baxter's A Preparation for Death, which seemed to promise something different from many autobiographies which seem designed to toast the success of the writer. Greg Baxter, on the other hand, is not a success, at least not in the terms by which he measures success. He's stuck in a house in Dublin he's not happy with but can't sell due to negative equity, in a job he hates as a journalist on a medical paper instead of a published novelist.

A Preparation For Death certainly offers something different from your average autobiography. Whereas most writers want to cast themselves in the best possible light and trumpet their achievements, Baxter faces his own lack of success and disillusionment with how his life has turned out head on. Whilst his bravery and honesty is to be applauded, it does make for a slightly depressing and sometimes difficult read.

It's not that it's a badly written book that causes the difficulty. There are several apt metaphors and similes and lovely pieces of imagery that step out of the general darkness of the narrative like the sun breaking through the clouds. There is also a surprising switch into a diary format for one chapter that comes as a welcome surprise in terms of style, although it doesn't offer much new in terms of the general attitude of the book.

This attitude for me is what makes A Preparation for Death a difficult read. Whilst Baxter does manage to find some enthusiasm within him at points, these are most often when he is talking about other people. His tone lightens noticeably when he talks about his grandmother and the efforts she made in escaping from Nazi occupied Vienna, even more so than when something positive happens to him late on. For the most part, however, Baxter focuses on the present and the paths he has taken to reach there and as he's not happy with how his life has turned out the majority of the book is mildly depressing and the disappointment he feels leaches through into the reading experience.

Ultimately, A Preparation for Death is not an entirely unrewarding read, but I did find it a struggle at a number of points. It's not the writing style, but the subject matter that causes the problem. This is not a comfortable read and not an easy book to get into and read large chunks of in one sitting. It's not a bad book, it's just a little uncomfortable and disappointing.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For a more rewarding story of life in Ireland, albeit fictional, I recommend Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.

Buy A Preparation for Death by Greg Baxter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Preparation for Death by Greg Baxter at Amazon.co.uk

Buy A Preparation for Death by Greg Baxter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Preparation for Death by Greg Baxter at Amazon.com.


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