Nyx Book Reviews

fantasy ♥ paranormal ♥ horror ♥ science-fiction

Review: The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

Title: The Language of Dying
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Series: None
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

144 pages
Expected publication December 5th 2013 by Jo Fletcher Books
Review copy provided by the publisher

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Some days you’re just not in the mood for fluff, for sparkly vampires or thrillers where the killer always gets caught. Some days just aren’t bright and colourful. For those days there is The Language of Dying.

The book narrates the story of a woman sitting at her fathers deathbed, and the days leading up to it where his other children visit.

The book is rather short, so I don’t feel comfortable giving a more in-depth description than this. Instead I’ll focus on the emotional implications of The Language of Dying. Ms Pinborough knows how to play with us; she uses flowing, lyric language combined with nostalgic and disturbing flashbacks. She knows when to reveal information and when to withhold it, to give us the full scope of what she’s trying to convey.

In some ways The Language of Dying reminded me of The Casual Vacancy. Although the two books don’t have anything in common on the outside, they both delve into the darker side of humanity – Rowling into the darker side of society, Pinborough into the darker side of the soul. In that respect the book also reminded me very much of Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story. The paranormal element in The Language of Dying is more subtle, but I feel the metaphors have something in common.

The book has two layers, that will attract two different kind of readers. On the surface there is the story of a woman losing her father to cancer. I felt as if this part was very realistic, and when I browse through reviews I see that this really effects people. For me the second layer, the one I’ve tried to touch upon in the last paragraph, was more interesting. At some points I felt as if Ms Pinborough’s background in film and TV shone through just a bit too much. It felt too scenic, too static or descriptive to fully fit with the medium of a novel. It’s hard to put my finger on, but this slight hesitance stopped me from fully immersing myself into the narrative.

If you’re looking for a book that will make you sad (which can be a good thing!), The Language of Dying will provide. If you’re looking for something deeper or maybe more literary, the book makes a decent effort that’s definitely worth the hour or two it takes to read this short book.


Tonight is a special, terrible night. A woman sits at her father’s bedside watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters – all traumatised in their own ways, their bonds fragile – have been there for the past week, but now she is alone. And that’s always when it comes. As the clock ticks in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her…

Other reviews you might be interested in