Book Reviews

Review: The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

The Language of Dying is written exquisitely, especially considering the delicate nature of the subject matter it deals with: no surprise here, death. I loved the themes behind the novella, as well as the little touches within the writing, even though the plot and setting lacked behind.


At the end of life, most would want to be surrounded by their loved ones and the main character’s family is no different. Having taken care of her father for the last months of his life, the end is finally near and her four other siblings have been called to say their final goodbyes. What becomes clear in these last moments, as the family comes back together, is the cracks within their foundation – the memories within their stories as we witness their grieving. They all leave and so she must remain at her father’s side, waiting – not only for his eventual and inevitable death – but for something else, a presence that she has been waiting for since she was ten.


What I loved about this book was the atmosphere and the idea behind it. The writing is so beautiful and throughout it there is this ominous tone of waiting. The choice to parallel the expectation of death and the ‘presence’ is spot on. It is in these moments of anticipation that anything can happen. Additionally, the whole concept of a language of dying is perfect. It is such a profound observation about language and the ways we have a whole set of rhetoric for dying, full of terms and idioms we do not understand, until we are confronted with the process of dying.

The Stages of Grief

Within the pages of this novella, our protagonist moves through the stages of grief that we can only go through when we are witnessing the slow onset of death. In these moments, we analyze our lives and our past, sink into memories and mistakes. Pinborough lets us inhabit the space between where the protagonist is, and where she was before, giving us an up close glance into her life.

The Setting

That being said, while the writing was atmospheric, I didn’t feel like the actual setting was. This is really a character driven novella, and so the setting is not as rich. Additionally, the actual plot sort of gets lost in between the memories. I know that this is more about the family dynamics and her, so the actual plot of her father dying occupies a seat on the side.


This is more than just a story about a woman witnessing the death of her father, but is full of memories, events that changed her life, and the blurry line between reality and something more. The language in the novel is beautiful and the thought behind it moving. If you’re into a novella based on characters within a family, then this is for you.

You can pick this up at Amazon(US), a local indie near you, or add it to Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.


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