The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide

As an undergrad my very important Arts degree let me to a plethora of insightful yet unusable information that renders me the smartest and most useless person in the room simultaneously. Give me a piece of popular culture and I will give you an intertextual reference point. It’s my dinner party trick (form an orderly queue people).

Feeling particularly maudlin one recent lazy weekend, I picked up The Household’s Guide to Dying. There are an inordinate number of tomes that use death as both protagonist and plot device in past, present and future tenses – The Lovely Bones (told from the perspective of a dead girl); The Book Thief (the narrator is death itself); The Fault in Our Stars (the dying). Each of these, while tear-inducing, are incredibly entertaining and at times reaffirming. Death is a weighty subject (obviously) but done well and with a minutia of respect, can set the undertone of a truly great novel. However, rather than a nuanced reverence for the reader, what I was confronted with was a trip down intertextual lane. All my undergrad memories came flooding back like a tsunami of tired clichés.

Intertextuality sounds thinky and terribly academic but the premise is really quite simple. From John Fowles’ use of Shakespeare in The Collector to the deconstruction of 2004 film Bride and Prejudice against Jane Austen’s famous tome, there is an epidemic of intertextuality in popular culture. So I was somewhat (perhaps haughtily) bemused through the pages of this book; it really was a host to the largest intertextual dinner party on record. A warm an inviting host of course, but one that had probably over-catered so the once-crisp vegetables stay limp and untouched by the end of the novel.

If I commenced an intertextual drinking game I would have turned into Bill Sikes by the 50th page (Bill Sikes, Oliver Twist. Drink!).

Sylvia Plath

John Donne

Hamlet

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Catcher in the Rye

Keats

Tennyson

Mrs Isabella Beeton

Drink, drink drink!

This novel is incredibly technical and correct as  a piece of creative writing but has dearth emotion (ok maybe a little at the end). Adelaide started with an interesting enough premise but the tale became veiled in the author’s need to demonstrate her breadth of literary knowledge. It had a lot of teach but not a lot of feel.

It may be better served by the title The Household Guide to Killing.

Killing Me Softly. Drink!

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Author: Tome To Read

Book, wine and food lover. I created this blog to discuss the things I love.

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