Yesterday was almost a day off - I won't disclose how many work phone calls interrupted it (despite the answerphone) - and included a trip to Borders at Fosse Park (for once devoid of other Baptists so far as I could tell!) to browse the shelves and pick up a few novels for relaxation. I bought four and by the end of the day had devoured two of them!
The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson, Portobello 2009 (not the only book of this title it seems from a check on Amazon) is a very quick read (took about 90 minutes) slightly quirky and definitely in the 'feel good' genre which is 'a moving story of the final moment of a life and of a lifelong romance.' Gentle without being twee, it was enough to generate a little bit of thought whilst providing relaxation.
By contrast, Before I Die by Jenny Downham, Black Swan 2008, is more challenging. It is a first person narrative of a sixteen year-old girl with terminal illness as she works through her list of things she wants to do before her death. Definitely not a children's book (some fairly explicit, if elegantly written, sex scenes as well as drugs and law breaking!) but feels authentic as a teenage narrator. I found lots of resonance with questions I've pondered at various times over the years - how would the final weeks be spent? Do the 'rules' change when time runs out? What might those final days or moments be like? The story is never ghoulish or mawkish, rather it draws it reader into Tessa's world - or is it maybe that of our own inner-teenager - as well as that of her family and friends. I found myself oddly reminded of the biblical story of Jephthah's daughter, who went off to spend her final days with her friends before being slaughtered to fulfil her foolish father's vow, simply because it raises the questions of what constitutes a fulfilled life.
The other two books aren't (ostensibly) about death and dying but we shall see!