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Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden


Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden
UK Publication Date: 28th Jan 2021
Reviewed by: Book Worm  
Rating: [★★★★]

This ARC was provided by Canongate (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Two word review – it’s complicated

Synopsis from GR: 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 Thoughts: This was a book of 2 halves for me the first half I was fully on board and thinking yes this is a definite 5 star read and then we hit the second half and I was left thinking WTF have I just read. Overall for me this is 3 stars for enjoyment but 4 stars for the messaging and what the author is trying to achieve.

Trigger Warnings: The book is the story of death so you should expect various details that relate to death and most forms of death are covered – including murder, terrorism, suicide and tragedies like Grenfell Tower.

As you might expect from a book written by a poet the language is beautiful, poetic and flows with its own unique rhythm (apart from the sections which rely heavily on the use of the C word, personally I found this word jarring and un-necessary).

While I didn’t enjoy the second half of the book I must give the author credit for what she has attempted to do in this story. The author uses different narrative techniques each chapter we have straightforward prose, we have poetry and we have a mix of both. We have Mrs Death telling her own story and we have Wolf telling Mrs Death story. We have time travel to see famous deaths from the past and we have deaths in the present. We also have an amazing use of language that makes the reader question what they have been reading, what is real what is imagination and we are directly questioned on why we read something into the book that the author hasn’t written. This is a very cleverly written book containing a subtle social commentary and the admonishment to be better people and kinder to each other. There is also a certain amount of humour in the book which was fun to find when reading.

The premise of this book is amazing however the execution is less than cohesive. That said I think this could be a book and an author to watch.

Some of my favourite quotes:

“They erased me and made you all believe that Death was male in spirit – the grim reaper in a black hood with a scythe. Remarkable that nobody questioned it really, don’t you think? For surely only she who bears it, she who gave you life, can be she who has the power to take it.”

“Don’t put poor people in danger by building cheap housing out of flammable materials: fix the fire alarms, attach sprinklers…can you smell smoke?”

“When you die, it will not be how you think or when you expect. I do not come for you like a cleaner when it is handy and convenient for you.”

“It is exhausting how much space men want and how much credit and control man wants to take for mankind.”

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Remedial Stitcher #

    I hadn’t heard of this book, but I’m going to look for it now. It certainly hits a lot of the things I like in books.


    February 7, 2021
  2. It’s a shame the second half gets weird, because everything about this sounds so excellent. The whole death being a woman thing is something I haven’t seen before – and that quote about women being the givers of life so it also makes sense that one would have the power to take it is really powerful!


    February 17, 2021
  3. Sheri Dye #

    I might just have to read it anyway, it sounds really interesting.
    Great review, i’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy the last half but.. thank you for sharing it with us!


    March 22, 2021
  4. Hayley #

    Just finished Mrs Death and I couldn’t agree more with your comment. I was loving it until I got to the second half of the book and now I’ve just finished it and I have no idea what I’ve just read.


    August 31, 2022

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