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The Household Guide To Dying

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,254 ratings  ·  235 reviews
Delia has made a living writing an acerbic advice column and a series of wildly successful modern household guides. As the book opens, she is barely 40 but has only a short time to live. The novel charts her preoccupation with two things: how to make provision for her husband and daughters - and how to make her peace with her past.
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published 2008 by HarperCollins
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3.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,254 ratings  ·  235 reviews

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Don't let the title fool you, or at least read the whole title, which continues "a novel about life". Because that's certainly what it is. The main character, Delia, is an advice columnist for domestic stuff, as well as a writer of several books based on a modern and cheeky interpretation of the 1861 classic "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management". She also happens to be a mother with a loving husband, two young daughters, and end-stage cancer. She figures that her final book should be, in ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘The first thing I did this morning was visit the chickens.’

Delia Bennet, wife and mother aged 39, is dying. Between now, and then, there is a lot Delia wants to accomplish. She has her lists of things to do, her loose ends to tie up, her planning for her husband and daughters once she is dead. Delia is also writing her final book: ‘The Household Guide to Dying’, the last in a Household Guide series which has included the Garden, Home Maintenance, Kitchen and Laundry. She will address themes suc
Nov 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
There needs to be a "stopped-reading" shelf on this website.

I thought this book would be quite a good read, but sadly, not. I could not warm to the main protagonist. I understand that she has a terminal illness, and that gives her dibbs on choosing the music in the car or deciding where her family goes on the weekend, but does anyone really care about the "proper" way to make a cup of tea, or the fact that her mother taught her proper etiquette and ways of the world? I would personally be inter
Kay Rollison
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Delia Bennet is dying, though there doesn’t seem to be a word in the English language that quite covers her situation. After all, we are all dying from the day of our birth. She has cancer and only a few months to live, but although she tires easily and is forgetful, she isn’t sick; she can still function in her roles as wife and mother and writer. She has three aims: to prepare herself, her husband and her two young daughters for her imminent death, to see if she can tie up a loose thread from ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
I did not enjoy this book. I tried to read it multiple times and found myself unable to make any head way with it until the past weekend when i sat myself down and forced myself to read it, as afterall it was the book chosen for book club and I had to read it.

From the very momment I saw what we would be reading, I had issues with this book. Let me start by saying I'm a very emotional person, and I cry alot when reading a book. So when presented with a book titled The Household Guide to Dying I
Jo Case
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Debra Adelaide has toiled away on the mid-list of the Australian literary scene for decades, writing close to a dozen books (two novels among them) along the way. Her latest book, The Household Guide to Dying, marks her entry into the big time. With rights sold internationally for an estimated $A1 million (after a heated bidding war), this novel comes heavy with expectation. And, I’ll admit, I was intensely wary of all the hype. But, nearly 400 pages later, I’m a convert. This is an exceptional ...more
Kirsten Krauth
Writing Mothers: Debra Adelaide

(This interview is from my blog, Wild Colonial Girl, at:

When I first read The Household Guide to Dying it felt as if the writer, Debra Adelaide, had somehow stepped inside my head for a while and borrowed my voice. Even though at the time I had no daughters, and I certainly wasn’t dying of cancer, the words felt like they were mine: effortless, flowing, perfectly formed, and delivered with precision timing (at certain key p
Deborah Ideiosepius
This was a very pleasant novel and quite an enjoyable read. It is pretty much completely seen from the point of view of the main character Delia Bennet, so one would have to enjoy her character to enjoy the book. The basic storyline is the last months of a woman who knows that she is dying of cancer, her coping mechanisms her family and so on. It might have dragged a little but the author cleverly wove together subplots from the past - initially as flashbacks but coming together with the main ti ...more
Melanie Worth
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Goosebumps. Lovely. xo
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an easy interesting read.
The main character is dying and the stories tells her life story from various perspectives of her past and present. Also, how she is preparing for her imminent death.
It's about her relationships and how she's lived her life and come to terms or not with it.
There were some parts that were a bit repetitious. Some parts just didn't particularly resonate with me.
I liked it because it was an Australian story. There many times when I totally identifyied with the emo
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
** spoiler alert **

Delia, popular advice columnist and author of a series of household guides, is told she has incurable cancer. She decides to write "The Household's guide to Dying" as she prepares for the end. In between making lists for her two girls that she will not see grow up she heads to a town from her past determined to get closure. She left town when her son was killed in an accident and donated his heart to a young girl. Delia is determined to track her down.

There were some humorou
Cate Ellink
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Initially this book made me laugh, it struck so many familiar notes. Then I had a bit of a lull where it annoyed and frustrated me. And then it made me cry. So I don't know how to rate or review it...but because it struck s many chords, it must have been good, very good.

Some quotes that I loved-
It took a stout feminist to withstand the onslaught of the shirt.

I could admit now that the perfect husband resembled a wife.

Only a dysfunctional household left pegs on the line.

...a child for whom arriva
Banafsheh Serov
Jan 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Author of 'how to do' books & domestic columnist Delia Bennett is dying of cancer. Before she dies, Delia wants to put her household together by compiling a guide book on it – her last one.

Before she can complete her list, Delia needs to go back to the small country town in the Queensland where she followed her boyfriend as a pregnant teenager and fled from 8 years later after a tragic accident.

This story partly blends facts and fiction. Adelaide's own son suffered from Leukemia while she wr
Aug 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amanda Rosso
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved this. Harrowing, confronting and wry in equal measures. A most beautiful perspective in the strong telling of a confronting end of living story. A wonderful 'how to' guide. Couldn't get into it at the start (lots of personal resistance methinks) but just goes to show you how it's worth continuing especially with difficult reads.
Interesting, confronting and sad. This novel demands your attention, it asks you to reflect and maybe even sneakingly cordons you to think about your own ending. What is life and what is death? It is blunt, yet amusing and surprising in many ways.
Jun 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
I can't believe I made it to the end...
Mary-Lou Stephens
Feb 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Some beautiful moments and ideas. I did shed a few tears at the end.
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I was given an advance copy of .The Household Guide to Dyingby Debra Adelaide in order to participate in the Mother Talk review of it.

When I was reading the first couple of pages I thought "Oh's another Martha Quest!" I only say that because of the chickens scratching in the dirt, and I thought in the beginning that Adelaide was going to be like Lessing, who was so wordy and gave so much detail that the joy of reading that is creating the setting and characters in your mind was squashed
Marlyse Weight
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Such a rich story of a life. I’ve lost many important women in my life to cancer and it was really interesting hearing the point of view of the dying main character and her story. I’m also really glad that I listened to this as an audiobook as there are many parts in the book that could make her seem uptight and pompous (as another reviewer felt) but in fact she was being humorous and sarcastic.
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was just the kind of book I thought I would love immediately - writing on family, dying, home making and grief...with a little wit and humour. However it did take me a while to warm to Delia, the protagonist. Half way through this book was the turning point from me, I then loved it and did not want to put it down. I’m glad to have read the story of Delia and was left appreciating life that little bit more.
Janine De paiva
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Right now I’m speechless and sobbing. But don’t get me wrong. This was an extraordinarily beautiful book that will stay with me. Not morbid but honest and raw and poetic and exquisite. And yes, I did cry. I mourned the character and people I have loved who have died. Some who were ready as this character was, some who were not. A beautiful book.
Lesley A
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Death is a poetic moment, realises Delia. And so it is as we learn what it means to die, from the perspective of the one doing the dying, in all its ordinary, painful, smug, and mysterious shape and colour. I enjoyed the structure of the book, the slow reveals, the tying up of loose ends, and I loved Archie. What a wonderful man. (3/5 stars)
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Haven’t finished it yet...but love it obsessively
This book has been on my radar for years. Anyway borrowed it at the library recently. It would have been too sad & flippant for me to read a few years ago.
There are some beautiful descriptions and it feels so familiar too.
Barbara Joan
I wasn't entirely over the moon about the structure of this book and did feel that it became too mawkish at times, but the novel concept was bravely carried out. It's the kind of read I might be happier tackling on holiday, when I don't always want to be challenged too much.
Katherine George
Mar 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I listened to the audiobook, was alright. I thought the story could have been a bit shorter, it did drag on a little. I liked it though, very thought provoking.
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a surprising delight! A subject so dark - preparing for your own death - has been dealt with in an unusual way. Don't skim over the advice columns - they are fun little golden nuggets!
Jul 14, 2018 rated it liked it
An excellent theme.
E J Parker
Mar 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
Boring ! Did not engage with lead character, didn't understand a lot of what she did to tidy up her life.
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book really touched my heart.
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Debra Adelaide has worked as a researcher, editor, and book reviewer, and has a PhD from the University of Sydney. She is presently a senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney, where she lives with her husband and three children.

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