Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden

Mrs Death Misses Death is about a girl, Wolf, who meets Mrs Death at nine-years-old when a fire in her tower block home kills her mother but leaves Wolf alive. She goes on to see and talk to Mrs Death—an old black woman who checks your groceries at the supermarket till; who cleans at the hospital; who goes unnoticed, uncelebrated—using her memories to explore the deaths of Wolf’s relatives and others whom Death cannot forget. 

Though about death and mourning, the book is more about what it means to be alive. Unsurprising from the pen of a poet, the novel plays with form—never quite laid out as you expect: the text is formed of poems, script, voice, song. It plays with language, uses repetitions and refrain, rhyme and rhythm to open experience, memory and imagination into a space that invites interpretation.

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Things I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy

I loved this book. Written as a response to George Orwell’s 1946 essay ‘Why I Write’, Levy’s book, framed by her times-across the years-in a hotel in Spain, is a playful and painful exploration of all that led to her lifting the pen, pushing the keys, speaking with a louder voice. 

I wanted to turn down the corner of almost every other page and her choice of quotations from other writers was so perfectly apt that I wanted to go away and read those books too. She uses these quotations to push her thinking further. If, as Adrienne Rich said, ‘No woman is really an insider in the institutions fathered by masculine consciousness’ then Levy unravels Motherhood (her capital letter) as ‘an institution fathered by masculine consciousness’ that leads to Levy staring at a poster in her bathroom of the skeletal system that she continuously misreads as the societal system and to tears on every upward escalator.

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