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The Household Guide to Dying

Debra Adelaide

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Harper

Published : 2009

Copyright : Debra Adelaide 2008

ISBN-10 : PB 0-00-728111-0
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-00-728111-4

Publisher's Write-Up

A brilliantly moving and darkly comic novel, which charts the attempts of dying heroine Delia - a modern day Mrs Beeton - to prepare her family for the future and lay to rest a ghost from her past. Inspired by her heroine, Isabella Beeton, Delia has made a living writing a series of hugely successful modern household guides, as well as an acerbic domestic advice column.

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 death, from writing exhaustive lists to teaching her young daughters how to make a perfect cup of tea. What she needs, more than anything, is a manual - exactly the kind she is the expert at writing. Realising this could be her greatest achievement (for who could be better equipped to write The Household Guide to Dying?) she sets to work. But, in the writing, Delia is forced to confront the ghosts of her past, and the events of fourteen years previously. There is a journey she needs to make, back to the landscape of her past, and one last vital thing she needs to do. Hugely original, life affirming and humorous, The Household Guide to Dying illuminates love, loss, family and the place we call home.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Ben Macnair (311010) Rating (8/10)

Review by Ben Macnair
Rating 8/10
Despite its rather sombre title The Household Guide to Dying is a novel that is full of life.

Delia Bennet is a successful writer of household guides, through which strangers are taught to life better lives, but when she is diagnosed with Cancer, her energy is concentrated on writing the book that will form her final opus.

Her marriage to Archie, and her life is happy, she has two young daughters Estelle and Daisy that she will not see grow up to be women, although she is already planning their weddings, knowing full well they will be totally different to what she wants them to be.

She had a son, Sonny, who died young, when she was living another life in a Caravan park, but then she met Archie, and she left that life behind. As her Cancer progresses, she feels that she has one last thing to do, and it is here that much of the heart of the novel happens. It is in her past, that Delia regains a sense of purpose for her present, and a sense of loss for her future. There is a definite sense that Delia’s life is being cut off in its prime.
Sonny’s heart was given to a young girl, and the reunion between the girl and Delia towards the end of the book gives the novel some form of symmetry.

The book is a relatively long one, at more than 350 pages, and a tighter editing job could have trimmed of some of the narrative fat from the book. There is a lot to recommend the book, navigating as it does the thin line between tragedy and comedy, and if readers can get past the title, there is a good story, and a sense of life and joy within the story that is told.
Ben Macnair (31st October 2010)

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