May 31

The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide

Ok, I know, I know. This might not be the most obvious choice for May Faves but given Barbara Kingsolver and Geraldine Brooks had already earned a place here this month, I simply could not go past this as one of my favourite books of all time.

If you judge a book by how often you think about it long after you clap it shut, well, this one was a no brainer.  Not a week has gone by where I don’t think about this book in some way.

I don’t think about it because I am collecting tips about dying you’ll be relieved to know.  I think about it because of the beautiful writing, the life-affirming messages throughout and because it is a damn fine read. But this is a novel, not a self-help guide book, folks, just to be clear!

Yes, sure, I have had a fair bit of death the past few years, but I loved this book beforehand and dare I say it, this story, and Delia the main character, perhaps allowed me to face those deaths with more grace than I felt able to at the time.

This book has some of the most lovely, most heartbreaking and funniest lines I’ve read.  It is full of wit and woe.  Delia became a hero to me and her husband Archie, shone as a true braveheart offering one of the most beautiful and powerful gestures to the woman he loved near the end of the book.  I still tear up thinking about it…

Delia wrote household guides for a living so when faced with her own death she did what she did best and began to write multiple lists  and how-to’s.  She has a powerful need to maintain order in her shortening life and to create a legacy so  is tireless in her attempts to teach her two small daughters the basic skills of life – how to make the perfect cup of tea, how to boil the perfect egg.  She even makes a list regarding arrangements for their weddings.  It’s utterly heartbreaking stuff.  She tries to tie up loose ends which takes her back to places and times that hold the greatest joy, and the greatest heartbreak in her short life.

It is a wonderful, beautiful, funny, devastatingly sad but uplifting book that reinforces that simple thing – at the end of the day ‘there is only love’.   Delia does not go gently into that goodnight.  She rages with love and spends her final days seizing those things most precious to her.

You won’t forget this book if you read it, so please, gird your loins and have a crack.   If it is any consolation, yes, you will weep (& yes, it could well be ongoing….) but you will also pick up some really handy household tips too.

But that is just my 2 cents worth.