This Time Of Dying | Granta

This Time Of Dying

Reina James

It is October 1918 and London is gathering in its dead. For Henry Speake, of Speake & Son Undertakers, laying to rest the shattered young bodies of those sent home from the Front to die has become a grimly familiar duty. But what he is seeing now, as influenza claims its victims with increasing speed and force, is something different, and for the first time in his life, Henry feels afraid of death. Unable to share his fears with his waspish, disapproving sisters, Henry turns instead to Mrs Allen Thompson, a recently widowed school teacher, so beginning a friendship which gradually, stumblingly, pulls them in a direction neither is prepared for.

  • Published: 12/04/2007
  • Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781846270468
  • 127x20mm, 240 pages

Rich and absorbing ... a five-star weepie

The Times

This author is the daughter of the great Sid James, but there is not a hint of Carry On about her first novel. It is a rich and absorbing story about the 1918 epidemic of Spanish influenza. Henry Speake is a young undertaker, rather cowed by his scary band of sisters. He has coped with mangled bodies sent home from the trenches but is overwhelmed by the dreadful power of the epidemic. In his state of fear and uncertainty he is drawn into a relationship with a schoolteacher who has been recently widowed. A five-star weepie.

Kate Saunders, The Times

James graphically describes a plague that wiped out families and overwhelmed the war-weakened infrastructure. However, the true terrain of the novelist is arguably the response of her characters to their afflictions. Here, James's isolated protagonists prepare the ground admirably for their individual witness and response to the calamity. A finely written and affecting novel.

Rachel Hore, Guardian

The Author

Reina James is the author of This Time of Dying and The Old Joke. She lives in Sussex with her husband.

More about the author →

From the Same Author

The Old Joke

Mim Lyons is a retired film actress, occasionally still recognized from her last great starring role in the late 1960s, but now more than content to restrict her performances to occasional play-readings with a group of old friends from the theatrical world. But when her agent calls out of the blue with a job offer, her husband begins to have his own dreams and schemes about the possibility of a comeback in a role that unsettles Mim’s perception of how her husband sees her – and of who she really is. As Mim struggles to preserve the quiet surface of the existence she has created away from the limelight, it becomes impossible to ignore the turmoil in the lives of those closest to her. While her friends’ marriage hits the rocks, her son struggles to clean up his act, her estranged daughter floats back into her life, and her husband is suddenly rendered vulnerable, Mim gradually comes to reassess the roles she has been playing – as friend, as daughter, as mother and as wife – and to decide who exactly she wants to be.

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