Monday, September 14, 2009

Book/Magazine Review: The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

In the introduction to this book, Graham Joyce makes a daring statement: "This is writing in another league: honest, courageous, startling and absolutely lucid." This is, in reference, to the formulaic horror stories out there, whether it's by other authors or by Sarah Pinborough herself. And yet, upon reading the first chapter, I can't help but agree. While there are traditional elements of storytelling in play here (the father's sickness, for example, is an excuse to talk about the rest of the family), a lot of it feels fresh.

There's the language for example. Pinborough uses the first-person perspective to tell an honest yet haunting biography. She slowly pulls us in and as soon as we grow acclimated to the "you" in the story, we've also been indoctrinated into the vocabulary of the narrator. There are several characters in the narrative and they all come to life in the hands of Pinborough, perhaps not fully explored but hinted enough for us to make our own generalizations. At first glance, there's a sense of selfishness in the narrator that makes it seem like everyone else is flawed and corrupted, but this paves the way for the revelations at the end.

But the real beauty of The Language of Dying, in my opinion, is that this is horror that makes the most out of the genre, the type that crosses boundaries without being overtly so. Related to this is the cover art. I feel that at worst, it spoils the narrative, or at best sets unfair expectations on the reader. Still, Pinborough's style is so different that readers might discard those notions entirely and simply be hooked by the narrative.

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