I recently read and was truly shattered by Sarah Pinborough’s latest novel Behind Her Eyes. So When I saw this one come up on Netgalley I just had to read it.
The Language of Dying is a shorter book than Behind Her Eyes and is in fact a novella rather than a novel. It is also as Sarah herself told me on twitter, a very different book to Behind Her Eyes so I’ll warn ahead that you should go into with no expectations if you’re reading in the same order as me.
The Language of Dying is about a woman who is nearly 40, living in her old family home and looking after her father who is dying of cancer. It looks into the families past told from the perspective of said daughter, from the strange/unconventional upbringing, to the mother leaving and the daughters own issues with relationships. As siblings arrive for their father’s final days it becomes evident that they all have some pretty serious issues going on. The narrator only hints at what these maybe which enhances the psychological suspense of the story. It becomes evident that events are leading up to something although it is unclear what this will be at first. Instead a lot of the story is focused on exploring how dysfunctional the family is and the secrets that they share between them and the cracks which divide them. I think this is something that the reader can always identify with, we all have that family member or if not friend who is spoilt, or angry, or childish or unable to cope with emotional situations.
The story is emotionally charged and empathetical. There is an element of magical realism as well which will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman and in fact Sarah Pinborough does acknowledge this at the end of the story. I’m unsure if I really ‘got’ this part but suspect it may take me a couple of days and then the penny will drop. It’s not an enjoyable book, purely due to the subject matter but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good book by any means.