Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden
‘Mrs Death Misses Death’ is the debut novel by poet @salena.godden. Thank you @hanaiskno at @canongatebooks for our copy. The story of Death herself — a working class Black woman able to pass through society and time unnoticed — and Wolf Willeford, who, after purchasing an antique desk, finds himself writing her memoirs. He is all too aware of Death, having lost his mother in a fire that calls to mind the utter tragedy of that night in June 2017 — Grenfell.
The premise of this book grabbed me and Godden’s lyrical ability as a wordsmith is truly astounding. This is literature and poetry combined in the most delectable way — that is, in a way that will have you thinking about the most challenging of subjects and never forgetting how Godden has laid them out for you. ‘I’ve often wondered how very different this living life would be if we were born with our expiry dates stamped on our foreheads. Imagine that.’ If that doesn’t make you stop and think, even just for the most fleeting of moments, about the life that you have I genuinely don’t know of words that will.
Imagine the stories Death could tell. Now imagine how a poet would tell you about all of the things Death has seen and this is the unique result. This book achieves so much so quickly, the prose is succinct, vivid, disrupted by bursts of poetry that ensures a compelling and wondrous story. Godden writes with mordant observational wit, traversing time and place to examine life, grief, morality and most importantly love.
At times the subject matter is so thought provoking and serious but there is a light hearted, truly humorous relatable element to the text that keeps the tone accessible. This is demonstrated by the opening declaration “Spoiler alert: We will all die in the end”. In true poetic form the writing is allegorical and lyrical with the writer playing with words and pronunciation so elegantly it is breathtaking (the title is a perfect example). Her personification of death as a black woman “there is no other more invisible” speaks to the injustices of society in an imaginative and powerful way.