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Mrs Death Misses Death: Salena Godden

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So as it might seem obvious, I was expecting fantasy but don't let the premise fool you, this book is full of surprises, twists, and turns. It is also an interesting combination of fiction and poetry. The desk, when he has it in his attic room above the Forest Tavern in East London, turns out to be Mrs Death’s own, and it shares her many tales with him, the circumstances of some, the reader may recognise. Amongst other tales, there’s an interesting take on the story of a certain notorious nineteenth-century serial killer. This is a moving and thought-provoking story about Mrs Death. She has spent eternity doing her job and she is fed up and now wants to find someone and unburden herself what with all the things she has done. So, she meets a young writer called Wolf. Who has some experience in death as she nearly died in a fire and half her family is dead? Mrs Death shows Wolf everything about death and what could have been done differently and how people lived years ago and about life. How to live life to the fullest. The story is not written in a normal sense. This story is part narrative, part poetry.

Oh, I have been travelling. I time travel. I am a death tourist. I am witness. I am permitted. I can see every end, I go everywhere that Mrs Death goes and the places only Mrs Death can go when I am here and when I listen to The Desk.” An astonishing, fragmentary, genre-defying, debut novel by the English performance poet and activist Salena Godden. A rhythmic and powerful poetic meditation on death, life and love and the hidden mysteries of the universe; both playful and sombre, hilarious and human NIKESH SHUKLAThank you NetGalley and Canongate for a copy of Mrs Death misses death by Salena Godden. When I requested this, I was expecting something completely different to what I just read in a good way. Salena Godden FRSL is an award-winning author, poet and broadcaster of Jamaican-mixed heritage based in London. Her debut novel Mrs Death Misses Death won the Indie Book Award for Fiction and the People’s Book Prize, and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards and the Gordon Burn Prize. Film and TV rights for Mrs Death Misses Death have been optioned by Idris Elba’s production company Green Door Pictures. Godden has been shortlisted for the 4thWrite short story prize and the Ted Hughes Prize. Her work has been widely anthologised and broadcast on radio, TV and film. Her poem Pessimism Is for Lightweights is on permanent display at the People’s History Museum, Manchester. She was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2022. Truthfully, this book is an experience and I highly recommend giving it a try though I’m aware it certainly won’t be for everyone.

The author’s depiction of Mrs Death is of a woman who enjoys an evening by the TV with Wolf, a glass of red wine in hand, rather than the traditional scythe. Dreary is simply not her style. The absurd is also employed as a safe space to explore uncomfortable truths about life (and death). The character of the Desk - more specifically Mrs. Death’s desk - communicates its disappointment at the cards it has been dealt by fate. Caught by the River began as an idea, a vision and a daydream shared between friends one languid bankside spring afternoon.

Wolf's writing is often a bit repetitive and it feels like the author gets so fascinated and hooked by a certain idea that he needs to explore it to the fullest. There are many quotable parts in the book overall and Wolf shares a lot of thought-provoking ideas like when he explains to us how our society often refers to higher powers as male, but that Death is certainly female.

If you can’t possibly choose between the two covers, then one for you and one for a flatmate/partner/cat/snow person seems the only way forward. #mrsdeathmissesdeath #SalenaGodden #ReadCanongate #bookstagram #instabook #indiebookshops #choosebookshops #independentbookshops

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Not specific with pronouns when she writes Wolf, Godden gently nudges us to question assumptions of gender. After a few characters are revealed to be women, Godden pokes fun at the reader and challenges the assumption that titles such as Dr are more commonly used by men. We are reminded that Mrs Death is often pictured in a male guise – one of the things she’s clearly finding so exhausting. She’s tired of it, tired of male pronouns taking over the world when men are brought to death just the same as women. She’s tired of human brutality and not just men against women; in one instance she also marks the cruelty by a mother to her child. Godden makes a point of the horrors that the mother herself experienced, but again, makes no excuses for the treatment of her child. She sets out the story as it stands and allows the discomfort. It’s time once again for the annual series of postings we like to call Shadows and Reflections, in which our... The most mystical, brilliant, and otherworldly book about death I've read since... high school? Wow, this book speaks about blood memory, time, death and of course life in ways I haven't experienced before. I'll keep saying it, poets who crossover to novels don't play fair!

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