Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I recently picked up a batch of old World Book Day titles from my local second hand bookshop. World Book Day, for those of who are unaware of what that means, publishes a series of slim novella-esque titles each year for the princely sum of £1. Schoolchildren are given £1 booktokens and thus able to select their own choice from the range of titles on offer. It’s a lovely scheme and, for many, their first chance at ‘owning’ their own book.
Killing The Dead was one of the 2015 titles and it is one that forms a companion piece, of sorts, to Sedgwick’s wild and big The Ghosts of Heaven. Set in an exclusive girl’s boarding school in the 1960s, each chapter is delivered from a different perspective and explores the aftermath of a girl’s death by the “dark, dark water”. Sedgwick’s writing is deliciously wild and untrammeled, as ever, although admittedly it is slow to work here. When the novella shifts up a gear, as it does after the first few chapters, the whole narrative starts to thrum with the delicious note of story; girls and secrets and lies and hidden spirals that connect them all to each other and to the “ghosts of heaven”.
The ending of Killing The Dead, that great final, piercing end of the spiral, is sharp and painful and beautifully written. I’m starting to wonder if Sedgwick is one of those authors who has endings; some writers sing in the beginning, but fade away, or deliver half-formed endings with the madly annoying promise of ‘to be continued’. Sedgwick is one of those authors who delivers gutpunch endings; piercing, bright, brilliant endings that leave me breathless.