Review: The Death of a Poet

For all the years I’ve spent trying to figure it out, I have no clue what outrage you thought those words contained.

death of a poet

“When you swear to love, to be faithful and to do your duty, how does that promise bind you?

Radio host John Knox falls passionately and irrevocably in love with Rachel McAllistair the first time they meet, when a political debate boils over and she punches him. Thrilled by her fire, he pursues her, promising never to leave her.

This promise becomes his burden as her behaviour whirls out of control. She is abusive and cruel, and yet he stays – until she does something so awful that both of their lives are changed forever. As he struggles   to inhabit a new identity, his story becomes unexpectedly bound up with one that began a century earlier, in the trenches of the First World War.

The Death of a Poet is a daringly honest, transfixing story about being in thrall to someone, being both a victim and a protector, and how early promise can turn into an utterly unrecognisable life. An exploration of violence in love, it’s controversial, devastating, and, in a complicated way, romantic too.”

The Death of a Poet isn’t an easy read.

But then again, is a book that deals with domestic abuse, mental illness and the effects of war ever simple?

The Death of the Poet tells the story of John Knox, an opinionated and somewhat famous  radio host, who’s life changes dramatically when he falls in love with Rachel, a historian interested in the “ballet of revenge” that characterised  the First World War. Throughout the course of their relationship Knox is pushed to his limits and watches his world disintegrate in a media storm. He also finds a new interest in the life of John Rutherford, who served in the trenches with James Lyons. This leads to a brilliant blending of narratives, which is probably my favourite part of the novel.

Though I found it to be a bit of a slow start, it hooked me with its deft and imaginative handling of such sensitive issues. It’s a novel that asks a lot of questions and Woolf’s characters were looking for the answers even as the reader begins to.

You may need to be a bit patient but it is worth it!


Kelly x

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