Archive for the ‘Debra Adelaide’ Category

I have just finished reading The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide and, while I usually enjoy reporting back on my likes and dislikes of each book, I’m not sure I can for this one.  I read through to the end, I definitely cried at certain points but never did I form any kind of attachment to it.  Sometimes you read books simply to get to the end of them, the pleasure coming from finishing the volume and knowing how it ended rather than from any sense of emotional entanglement.  That’s perfectly fine and that’s absolutely what happened here. 

I think it is a likeable book, just not for me.  There are allusions to Jane Austen, witty domestic-help columns (guided, at times, by a preoccupation with Mrs. Beeton) and, of course, the pathos of a dying mother, preparing herself and her family as much as is possible for her inevitable passing.  It is never mawkish or sentimental, which I did somewhat fear it would be.  It’s been described as “life-affirming” (by Wally Lamb), which might be overstating things, but it is satisfying.  It’s a strangely inadequate description, but it’s all I have right now – I didn’t feel cheated or exploited (feelings that books dealing with the subject have certainly been known to elicit) but rather sated, content with conclusion and the route by which we reached it.  My greatest pleasure in this book came from its descriptions of laundry – I assure you, this seems a perfectly appropriate take-away once you’ve read the book.  You too will share my longing (and the heroine’s longing) for laundry dried on the line, out in the sun, laundered properly first and then hung with exquisite care. 

A brief summary (from the publisher), for those who may be interested:

Delia has made a living writing a series of hugely successful modern household guides. As the book opens, she is not yet forty, but has only a short time to live.

She is preoccupied with how to prepare herself and her family for her death, from writing lists to teaching her young daughters how to make the perfect cup of tea. What she needs is a manual – exactly the kind she is the expert at writing. Realizing this could be her greatest achievement she sets to work. But, in the writing, she is forced to confront the ghosts of her past and she realizes that there is a journey she needs to make and one last vital thing she needs to do.

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