#Review Mrs Death and Misses Death by Salena Godden @salenagodden @canongatebooks #MrsDeathAndMissesDeath

Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden (Hardback ISBN 9781838851194) book cover
Mrs Death and Misses Death by Salena Godden Canongate Books January 29th 2021

The Blurb

Mrs Death tells her intoxicating story in this life-affirming fire-starter of a novel

Mrs Death has had enough. She is exhausted from spending eternity doing her job and now she seeks someone to unburden her conscience to. Wolf Willeford, a troubled young writer, is well acquainted with death, but until now hadn’t met Death in person – a black, working-class woman who shape-shifts and does her work unseen.

Enthralled by her stories, Wolf becomes Mrs Death’s scribe, and begins to write her memoirs. Using their desk as a vessel and conduit, Wolf travels across time and place with Mrs Death to witness deaths of past and present and discuss what the future holds for humanity. As the two reflect on the losses they have experienced – or, in the case of Mrs Death, facilitated – their friendship grows into a surprising affirmation of hope, resilience and love. All the while, despite her world-weariness, Death must continue to hold humans’ fates in her hands, appearing in our lives when we least expect her …

My Review

Ok, I’ll be honest I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of Mrs Death Misses Death, that wasn’t to say it wasn’t good because it was, it just required the reader to think out of the box and concentrate.

The structure was interesting, part narrative and part poetry, not surprising as the author is also a poet. It did take some getting used to but I felt it worked well and broke up the narrative, which was quite heavy reading at times.

The other factor was the interaction between Wolfie and Mrs Death herself. You wondered if Wolfie obviously had a chequered past, the loss of his mother in a fire, an absent father, and brought up by a grandfather who clearly didn’t want the responsibility.

I wasn’t sure if Wolfie was contemplating ending his own life, as he struggled with depression, and loneliness, his solace found in a second hand writing desk and his conversations with Mrs Death.

Mrs Death herself was an interesting concept, as were her own opinions and views. She challenged us on our perception that death was always considered male, the grim reaper the obvious image. Where did this thought come from, why do we have these perceptions?

She took us through time, to famous deaths, to murder, to those of us that hover between life and death, narrowly miss death, rising to fight another day.

You soon came to realise that Wolfie was her conduit, as he wrote down her stream of consciousness, as he examined his own journey through life, one that you found difficult to see a future.

This was a novel that examined many things, race, gender and many other themes. It was very different, but also very good, and unlike anything I have read in a very long time. It wasn’t until I had had some space from the novel and had time to think about what i had read that I was able to write my review. I don’t think my review has given it adequate justice as I think it was a novel that required the reader to form their own opinion, to get from it what they wanted which made it all the more interesting and indeed quite remarkable.

About the author

Salena Godden

Salena Godden is one of Britain’s best loved poets and performers. She is also an activist, broadcaster, memoirist and essayist and is widely anthologised. She has published several volumes of poetry, the latest of which was Pessimism is for Lightweights, and a literary childhood memoir, Springfield Road.

Mrs Death Misses Death is her debut novel. A BBC Radio 4 documentary following Godden’s progress on the novel over twelve months was broadcast in 2018. In November 2020 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

@salenagodden | salenagodden.co.uk

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