Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

So I admit, Language of dying is the first book by Sarah Pinborough that I read. And by Gods, am I hooked.

sarah pinborough


Language of dying by Sarah refuses to be pigeon-holed into a specific category of fiction - And by far, this one definitely is a literary knock-out punch. A gut-wrenching, soul-rending song of a book which attempts to unravel the something called the language of dying - Yup it exists. How much ever we deny the same, this is a language defies definition or capture but is indeed something that all of us have had to deal with one time or the other. It is not just the fact that she chose to write about something as morbid and shocking as death. In fact, it is Sarah's treatment of the subject. Honest, unflinching and just plain brave.

The story is that of a father wracked by lung cancer, lying painfully in his death bed while the nameless narrator, the daughter is waiting on him to die, a hauntingly disturbing vigil as this drama play out against the backdrop of grey memories that recount her broken life - including a childhood spent sandwiched between the two groups of her older siblings and her younger twin brothers. That outcast feeling only deepens as she grows older and takes one too many decisions that seems to go woefully wrong. Like a bad marriage, abortion and then her decision to chuck everything in life and come back, a full circle, back to her father's house where she had grown up to live out the rest of her life.

Also central to the story - outside of this strong bond of father-daughter duo, is the crumbling relationship between the siblings. There are five children and the narrator is the middle one. Her sympathetic relationship with older sister Penny, her uneasy 'truce' with Paul, the oldest - and her surprisingly tender and yet revealing association with the twin boys, Simon and Davey are the highlights of the book for me. The drug abuse and the irresponsibility of the twins who refuse to grow up, the materialistic needs and the constant insecurity of Penny - and the shifty escapist nature of Paul, these are all real characters we have dealt with in our own family one time or the other. I didn't enjoy reading this book, not at all. I cringed and was disturbed throughout the read and yet I couldn't stop myself from reading this compelling narrative about death, grief, loss and longing.

By any standards of fantasy, this novella doesn't tie in well within the broad frameworks of this genre but then there's this faint aspect about the narrator's longing - her wait in the nights for a stranger, where the lines of reality blur and bleed into the realms of dreams. again this isn't like overtly fantastic but whatever it is, I thought it was amazing.

This meditation on life and it's ultimate companion in death and what follows after, is haunting and definitely will set you thinking. It's a short punchy unflichingly honest look at love, life and longing and you should be reading this book, if you have ever lost a loved one. 

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