Publication Date: 2nd May 2019
When Unbound contacted me to ask if I would like a copy of The Life Of Death to read and review, I went away and did a bit of googling to find our more. The premise is fairly simple yet fascinating and I decided to give it a go.
It’s the 1500’s and Elizabeth is to be burnt at the stake as a witch. Always a very intuitive child with a talent for healing and a close connection to Lucifer himself (if gossip is to be believed). On the day of her impending death, The Devil visits her and gives her a way out. If she sells her soul to him, in return he will grant her eternal life with a purpose. The purpose being she must assist people at the point of their death in crossing over to the other side as painfree and fearless as possible. Each death which comes entrenched in suffering and abject pain directly affects The Devil, draining him of energy.
If He can feed on Elizabeth’s soul as nourishment and she can provide a smooth transition to the other side for the dying, she will be granted the gift of eternal life.
Elizabeth takes Him up on the offer. Even knowing she will he owned by Him for eternity.
For the next 400 years Elizabeth is present at every death, taking on the guise of the dying person’s most loved woman in their lives. A loving mother, a devoted wife, a beloved Sister or a lifelong friend. Easing their pain and anxieties. One day however, Elizabeth is present at the death of a young woman, her partner Tom, the man she is leaving behind makes an impression on Elizabeth and she feels a deep connection with him and his deep love for his girlfriend and his subsequent grief after her death.
This awakens a desire in Elizabeth to feel love, live a mortal life and experience a deep connection with Tom. Desperate, she visits the Devil to ask him to release her from eternal life. The Devil informs her he will grant her wish, but only if she provides him with 5 lives that she herself must take. The Devil will choose who she is to kill. Elizabeth, although extremely and understandably reticent, takes him up on the offer.
From here we follow her as she carries out her challenge, taking lives, each proving more difficult than the last. But can Elizabeth carry out the task to the Devil’s exacting standards? Can she ignore her gut instincts and is love really worth it?
I’ll admit that going into this book I was a little trepidatious. I’d read a book by Claire North called The End Of The Day with a similar ‘death’ theme and I had to DNF it. When I read the first couple of chapters of The Life Of Death I did stop and think ‘what on earth am I reading here?’…..I knew I wanted to give it a decent shot, so I powered on.
Man am I glad I did!
This book is like nothing I’ve ever encountered before. A real head scratcher, one that makes you think ‘what if?’ I adored the way that we got a back story for each of people passing over, and when I realised that Elizabeth was effectively going to have to kill people, I wrongly assumed they would be easy pickings…….murderers etc people who could be considered to ‘deserve it’. However….it’s The Devil himself that we are playing with here and of course things would not be as easy as that. I was surprised and relieved that the author didn’t take this route. The ‘victims’ as it were, have various reasons for being chosen but none of them are bad people. I found this utterly fascinating.
The Devil appears sporadically throughout this book but he is a fully rounded character. An impeccably dressed, tall, slim man who is often incongruous with the setting. He can be found lounging on a deckchair on a deserted beach, tucking into an icecream, or having a little trip out to a football match and helping himself to a hot dog. He refers to Elizabeth as ‘Little D’ the D standing for Death obviously and he has a razor sharp wit and a wicked (of course!) sense of humour.
Elizabeth as the character of death is a genius idea. Kicking against the usual narrative that Death is a dark, looming, hooded male figure, roaming the land with his scythe. To have a female interpretation of Death, and have her easing the passage of the dying instead of being a harbinger of doom was a very unique idea.
There is of course an extra nuance to this story of death, in that the author Lucy Booth sadly passed away in 2016 after battling breast cancer since 2011. She wrote the book during this time and it is to be published posthumously. I had this in the forefront of my mind as I was reading the book. How interesting to choose the subject of death to write about when you are faced with the possibility yourself.
It feels slightly wrong to say I ‘enjoyed’ this book but I did. It read it within a couple of days and it was one of those books that keeps you up past your bedtime on a school night just because you need to read more!
I would thoroughly recommend that you get your hands on a copy!
Thank you Becca and Unbound for my proof copy.
See you soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx