One soul. One pact with the Devil. One chance at love.
Elizabeth Murray has been condemned to burn at the stake. As she awaits her fate, a strange, handsome man visits her cell. He offers her a deal: her soul in return for immortality, but what he offers is not a normal life. To survive Elizabeth must become Death itself.
Elizabeth must ease the passing of all those who die, appearing at the point of death and using her compassion to guide them over the threshold. She accepts and, for 500 years, whirls from one death to the next, never stopping to think of the life she never lived. Until one day, everything changes. She – Death – falls in love.
Desperate to escape the terms of her deal, she summons the man who saved her. He agrees to release her on one condition: that she gives him five lives. These five lives she must take herself, each one more difficult and painful than the last.
I mainly read and review fantasy but every now again a book drops into my inbox and I’m intrigued enough to give it a go. The Life of Death was one such book and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
We meet Lizzy in the 1500’s, accused of witch craft and awaiting her sentence. To be burnt at the stake. She sells her soul to the devil in order to die painlessly and in doing so becomes Death. She gets pulled from one death to the next appearing as the woman the dying person most wishes to see. She ushers the souls onto what is next.
400 years later and she wants her soul back, Lizzy has fallen in love. The lack of true interaction has become tiresome. The devil won’t give it back easily though. He needs Lizzy, they are linked. In order to earn her soul back she has to actively take 5 souls. How far is she willing to go to earn her soul and end the constant pull of death?
I was instantly captured by the writing style of this novel. From the very first page I knew I was going to love it. The words flow in such a way as to draw you along with them. There is a rhythm and a pattern to the writing. Each death that Lizzy attends comes with a back story, a snap shot into that person’s life. I loved these insights. Every chapter that deals directly with a death ends with the same words, which adds to the overall atmosphere that Lucy has so masterfully created.
Some of this book is a little difficult to read depending on personal experiences. Lizzy attends all deaths, from peaceful ends where the person is ready, to car accidents where they fight for life. Every single one is handled with such sensitivity and there are no overly graphic details.
For a book that deals predominately with death you would expect this to maybe be a depressing read. However, I found it almost uplifting. The premise that there is someone there at the end to usher us on is a comforting one. It’s all the more poignant when you realise that Lucy wrote this book while battling cancer. A battle she sadly lost in 2016.
This is a beautifully crafted, thought provoking novel. I cannot express just how much I loved reading it. It is a book I will revisit time and time again. I would go as far as to say it is one of the best books I have ever read.
My thanks to Anne for inviting me on to the blog tour and the publishers for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
The writing of the The Life of Death is as remarkable as the story it tells. Lucy Booth was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She died in August 2016. During those five years she wrote this novel and it was her last wish to have it published posthumously.