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Mrs Death Misses Death Reviews

Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden

Mrs Death Misses Death

Salena Godden

4.13 out of 5

4 reviews

Category: Fiction
Imprint: Canongate Books Ltd
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Publication date: 28 Jan 2021
ISBN: 9781838851194

Mrs Death has had enough. She is exhausted from spending eternity doing her job and now she seeks someone to unburden her conscience to. Wolf Willeford, a troubled young writer, is well acquainted with death, but until now hadn't met Death in person - a black, working-class woman who shape-shifts and does her work unseen.

Enthralled by her stories, Wolf becomes Mrs Death's scribe, and begins to write her memoirs. Using their desk as a vessel and conduit, Wolf travels across time and place with Mrs Death to witness deaths of past and present and discuss what the future holds for humanity. As the two reflect on the losses they have experienced - or, in the case of Mrs Death, facilitated - their friendship grows into a surprising affirmation of hope, resilience and love. All the while, despite her world-weariness, Death must continue to hold humans' fates in her hands, appearing in our lives when we least expect her . . .

  • The BooksellerEditor's Choice
5 stars out of 5
Alice O'Keeffe
2 Oct 2020

"an original, exuberant novel, freewheeling from prose to poetry to non-fiction"

In the first novel from the poet and performer (whose previous works include Pessimism is for Lightweights and Springfield Road), Death is not the Grim Reaper but Mrs Death, an elderly, black, working-class woman who has had enough of it all. She decides to unburden herself to Wolf Willeford, a struggling East London poet who will write her memoirs. What follows is an original, exuberant novel, freewheeling from prose to poetry to non-fiction, as Wolfie tells Mrs Death's story across the ages, and also his own. Truly one of a kind-don't miss it.


4 stars out of 5
Sara Collins
11 Feb 2021

"a modern-day Pilgrim’s Progress leavened with caustic wit"

The effect is to produce a collage of speech and speechlessness, a story that sometimes slips away from you even while you are reading it, becoming a memento mori in form as well as content. In other words, it’s exactly the sort of thing you expect when a poet writes a novel, and exactly the sort of thing you’ll devour if you like huge helpings of experimentation with your fiction. This is not light-hearted stuff, yet Godden has produced a miraculously light-hearted novel, leavened in the right places with a caustic, perceptive wit.

4 stars out of 5
31 Jan 2021

"An uplifting balm to a bad year"

Mrs Death Misses Death is both a balm to a bad year and a reassuring accompaniment to a new one. “Humans still have so much to learn. But in times of difficulty, when you are in pain and trauma, accidents and emergencies, you draw breath together, you connect, you’re most tuned in and alive and alert.”


3 stars out of 5
Claire Allfree
22 Jan 2021

"Godden’s free association approach is a defining, animating force "

So Wolf decides to write her memoir. What follows is a mish-mash of history, poetry, feminism, racial politics and oral storytelling techniques as Wolf encounters the stories of Jack the Ripper victims, murdered hitchhikers, suicides and dead musicians, alongside that of his own mum, killed with many others after fire ripped through a block of flats.

Godden’s free association approach is a defining, animating force but also serves as a fig leaf for a sloppy book.