In short: Brillant!
In long: One of the great things of being a reader is to watch a writer you admire grow with each publication. Usually, with books coming out between biannually and semiannually, the change is subtle. But every so often, a writer finds a story, or needs to write a story, that goes beyond the subtle. It is a story that take the writer to a new place in their craft, which every story after it will be affected by it. The Language of Dying is Pinborough's landmark tale.
You may come across this review in a myriad of ways, but I'm sure a number of you are looking at the genre line and doing a double take. Magical Realism? Yes, it is the closest I could come to a genre with out giving Ms. Pinborough her own. I say that because at the heart of the story, it is a clean, eloquent fiction piece told through the eyes of of a middle child who is taking care of her father dying of lung cancer. But, and this is a very significant but, to each reader it can be a different kind of tale.
For those that have had to deal with the lose of a love own to any kind or wasting illness, be it cancer or something else, it is tale of affirmation that the complex emotions you feel through the whole process of watching a love die. Pinborough's honesty and realism in the emotions of not only the Point of View character, but her four siblings as well are the driving force of the story. It reminded me of when I read the last chapter of Ulysses and how I thought the stream of consciousness writing lent a more honesty to the character of Molly Bloom. I was wrong, Pinborough proved that it was just great writing and great talent that creates that kind of honesty in a story.
For those unacquainted with death, it can be an almost Borgesian horror tale. Pinborough's style has matured in this novella. And I say matured for a specific reason, and it is not to be condescending or patronizing. As I writer I have seen the growth of my own writing over the years. But for many writers, it takes a long time to get out of the process of learning, adding, and refining your style though a multitude of tales and only in later half of your writing career to find not just the voice of your writing but the voice of where all your stories come from, the voice of your Muse. Pinborough has achieved, at the very least, the first stage of writing her Muse's voice. A part of that voice is always going to be a little bit frightening in her tales. Like all that start in horror, she sees the darkness not as purely evil, but a universal constant.
For those that have a desire for freedom for the lives they are in and have lived for so many years, it is a tale where dreams and fantasies can come true. That endings, while not emblazoned with "Happily ever after," can still be happy endings where dreams do come true. Some dreams just take longer to be realized because one must live through nightmares first.
Three very distinct tales, all be told at the same time. It is real. It is wise. And, it is magical to read and experience. How much closer to magical realism can you get.