Monday, June 8, 2015

The Autobiography You Never Read... But You Should

There is something to be said for reading books that are not the most currently published.  You pick up a book, read it, LOVE it, and then wonder 'Where was I when this came out?!'  You then start to wonder what else you're missing out on: next thing you know, you have spent hours looking for books by that author and then checking out others that are similar to that book.  You have embarked on a whole new literary journey.  Death: A Life is that book.  I was laughing until tears ran down my face, was fascinated by the underlying facts throughout the book, and was overall delighted.
Courtesy of

Published in 2008 to apparently no fanfare, Death: A Life is everything you could possibly want from a satirical novel.  It is simply the autobiography of Death.  Born to neglectful parents, Satan and Sin, Death has a sub par childhood in his home, Hell.  His family eventually emigrates to Earth, where they proceed to help usher in the fall of man and the general chaos of Earth.  Death fulfills his role faithfully, shepherding souls to the Darkness.  Until he becomes hooked on life.  His curiosity of the living leads to a nearly fatal addiction, with Death experiencing all the triumphs and tribulations of what life has to offer.  

There is a certain mischievousness about using anthropomorphism in a concept such as death;  it forces the reader to view it in a different light, not just in the natural 'fear of death' light.  Death: A Life also explores history as we know it in a different way.  Adam and Eve are pretentious and arrogant, God was on vacation during the polytheism periods of civilization, the Industrial Revolution ruined religious fervor, and the lines between demons and angels are much more blurred than we thought.  Through the satirizing of well known events and established facts, the reader has to reconsider what they thought they knew: what if history was not as clean and precise as we are taught?  What if things were messy, historical people were cantankerous and whiny, and the historical record was thoroughly cleansed of all the nuances of life?  Death: A Life can almost be considered alternative history... almost.
Author George Pendle,
courtesy of

Part of the charm of the novel lies with the nationality of the author: George Pendle is British, thus the novel is filled with British phrases and the syntax of the novel's language is very very British. The descriptions are wry but pithy, and the dialogue manages to be hilarious but plot driven at the same time.  Death: A Life is not a long read and it is not a serious, in-depth look at life.  Instead, it is thought-provoking, entertaining, and well written. There is nothing that is off limits in this book; everything is fodder for ridicule and the author makes sure to cover all the death related insanity of civilization.  Death is reverent and irreverent; he is a being like everyone else, but is a driving force in life... and in death.