The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide

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The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: A beautiful, moving, blackly funny novel about the untimeliness of death and the amount of preparation an organised woman must undertake in preparing her family for the calling of the Reaper.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: June 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
ISBN: 978-0007274703

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Delia Bennet is dying of cancer. She's had the operations, done the treatments, and now, bald and sick of being meddled with, has decided enough is enough. As she grows accustomed to the nighness of her end, Delia, author of a national newspaper column and of the hugely successful Guide To series, embarks upon the idea of a the guide to end all Guides To. Following in the footsteps of her previous Guides, Home Maintenance, Kitchen, Garden and Laundry (No one had yet produced books that eroticised and poeticised such dull tasks as washing and I only did it by accident. One reviewer called it laundry-porn, intending to be unkind: sales of the book trebled in the following weeks.), Delia calls her publisher, Nancy, and hints that she might like to pen one last edition, rakishly suggesting the book be called The Household Guide to Dying. Far from being appalled, Nancy seizes upon the hole in the market for such a book and gives Delia the green light.

And so The Household Guide To Dying is written around Delia's attempts to get her own house in order before her final act is played out. Should she commit long-held recipes for fruitcake from memory to paper so that her daughters can carry on the lineage? Should she organise her youngest daughter's wedding even though Daisy had not even made it into her teen years yet? More importantly, should Delia devote the remainder of her days to poring through her beloved novels one last time? Should the daughters of her namesake receive a final airing in the pages of Pride and Prejudice? Who will stroke, pet and coax her beloved hens into delivering their fragile bounty? What about her wonderful, perfect, devoted husband, Archie? Should she perhaps try to find him a new girlfriend?

The Household Guide To Dying is a tender, bittersweet meander down a memory lane that is filled with pits and potholes and surprises that lie around every bend. It is not just Delia’s house that she has to get in order and as she processes these thoughts, the reader, is party to a very unique journey indeed.

It's not going to be a happy ending in the traditional sense of the word. Delia does not 'live' happily ever after here; the clue really is in the title - which is what actually attracted me to the book in the first place (I rarely seek out a book based on a magazine recommendation, especially one in a glossy). What I will say, however, is that knowing this does not in any way tarnish the tale, rather it enhances it. Moreover, it places on the reader a sense of urgency that Delia achieve what it is she has set out to.

The Household Guide To Dying recurrently had me tight-of-throat and in tears in full view of the general public, and not because dying is sad (this of course depends on your point of view, but in mine, dying tends to be sadder for everyone other than the dying) but my tears were for Delia's life, brought into being within the pages of a book so beautifully written, on such a formidable subject. I am not moved to tears frequently. I affectionately consider myself something of a battleaxe - my colleagues also, but without the affection.

Name-calling aside, with all my heart I recommend this book for too many reasons to list here. For the sake of argument however, you should know that Debra Adelaide is more accomplished at her craft than many a writer I have recently read, her words articulately and gently selected and her story constructed using an eye accustomed to perfection.

And anyone who can make a chicken (shudder) appear beautiful The five of them fussed and bickered on their way out of the shed as the light grew …” …wearing black feathers over her white plumage like a lacy shawl… is more than worthy of your attention.

I might also recommend The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and similarly by the same author Lucky. If neither of these novels tickles your fancy but you want to stay within the feel of The Household Guide to Dying, I would suggest you give The Girls by Lori Lansens a whirl or maybe even My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. For a real weepy you might like to try Where the River Ends by Charles Martin - that one should come with a free box of Kleenex. Teen readers might appreciate Before I Die by Jenny Downham.

Buy The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide at Amazon.com.


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