The Household Guide to Dying

The Household Guide to Dying

By (author) Debra Adelaide


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Desperate Housewives meets Six Feet Under in this brilliantly moving and darkly comic novel, which charts the attempts of dying heroine Delia - a modern day Mrs Beeton - to prepare her family for the future and lay to rest a ghost from her past. Delia Bennet has made a living writing a series of hugely successful modern household guides, with advice on everything from laundry to lovers. The one thing she hasn't ever given advice on is her own situation: barely forty but dying. To prepare her family, she tries everything from writing lists to teaching her daughters to make the perfect cup of tea. What she really needs is a household guide: the kind she is expert at writing. She sets to work. But the writing forces Delia to confront painful ghosts from her past. there is a journey she needs to make, and one last vital thing she must do...

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  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 130 x 197 x 25mm | 260g
  • 05 Jan 2009
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • Harper
  • London
  • English
  • 0007281110
  • 9780007281114
  • 105,860

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Author Information

Debra Adelaide is the author of two novels which were published in Australia and four themed collections of fiction and memoirs. She has worked as a researcher, editor and book reviewer, and has a PhD from the University of Sydney. She is now a senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney. She has three children and several chickens.

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Review quote

'Darkly comic novel with a tone that is Desperate Housewives meets Six Feet Under...this is caustic and hilarious, as well as heart-warming. A clever read that stays with you for a long time' Red 'Adelaide's moving novel captures both the hope and sadness of Delia's plight' Daily Mail 'A novel about loving and grieving...filled with humour, warmth and sadness - just like life' Good Reading 'I found this novel entrancing. The Household guide to Dying is a joyous, irreverent romp of a book that resonates deep inside long after you finish. Delia's magical, crystalline voice made me fervently wish that she was real and that I knew her.' PATRICIA WOOD, Lottery

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Review text

Dry meditations on preparing for death and a trip down memory lane preoccupy the cancer-stricken heroine of a reflective, overburdened but not too sentimental story.A mother with a past is about to be snatched away too soon from her devoted husband and female children and needs to leave matters in order, in Australian novelist Adelaide's latest (The Hotel Albatross, 1995, etc.). The central character, Delia, doesn't have much time left and is obsessing about preparing for her young daughters' weddings, while needing to tie up loose ends regarding her own early life and also writing The Household Guide to Dying, the final volume in the Household Guides series related to her domestic-advice column. These jostling strands make for a choppy, sometimes chronologically confusing narrative, further fragmented by flashbacks and glimpses of Delia's professional correspondence. Adelaide's discursive style adds an additional gossipy dimension. However, the story of Delia's teenage pregnancy emerges through the thicket - how her boyfriend abandoned her; how she lived in a caravan, in a small town, as a single parent; how she coped when tragedy struck. Because of her illness, Delia has trouble finishing Household Guide to Dying, but Adelaide succeeds in wrapping things up gracefully.Despite the cluttered scenario and downbeat subject matter, the author's witty, perky tone and insight prevail. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Customer reviews

The Household Guide to Dying

This is a story about Delia a woman who is dying. She has had a double mastectomy, all the trearment she can handle and now is the time that she must make herself ready for her death. She is a writer of household guides Laundry, gardening the Kitchen etc and she has a brainwave that she will write a guide to "Dying", to help others! She takes us back to a time 22 years before all this happens, to another life she lived but which was also connected to todays life, (you will see when you read the book, as I hope you will!). She got pregnant by a musician when young and went off to find him. She didn't, but made a life for herself in a small town called Amethyst in Australia, (the story is set in Australia, but could be anywhere), She bought a caravan and lived there bringing up her beautiful son Sonny for 8 years until a terrible accident killed Sonny and left her bereft. Sonny's heart was transplanted into a little girl who needed it and we find Delia going back to Amethyst to try and find the young girl before she dies. The book jumps (quite gently) back and forth from then to now. She is writing her book, making lists and trying to smoothe her families passage through her death. At times she comes across as very controling and sometimes a bit odd, like when she decides she loves her family so much she wants to leave a part of her behind and makes some blood sausage usung her own blood!! (yes I did say her own blood!!) but she later throws them away! The book is quite gentle in the way it comes across, she has the time to do the things she wants for her family (filling the freezer with home cooking, planning her daughters wedding, choosing a possible partner for her husband Archie!) but realises at the end that really none of it matters, as she puts it "Death is a poetic moment". I really enjoyed this book after s slow start. I was left thinking that she had been so lucky to have the time to wind down and say goodbye. I would recommend this book more
by Penny Cunningham