Death Writes: A Curious Notebook


160 pages
ISBN 1-55152-038-9
DDC 306.9





Illustrations by Cathie Hahnel
Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


“This is Death’s personal notebook, an old scribbler discovered
abandoned in a coffeehouse, reproduced here for the first time anywhere.
Whose story does it tell? You decide.” Thus invites Darlene Barry
Quaife, who has cheerfully volunteered to be Death’s official

The text simulates the format of an old primary school notebook, with
faint traces of the original owner (Elsie Cole, 1921) appearing at the
top of some pages. The contents are arranged alphabetically. Death melds
his / her / its meditations into the penmanship exercises performed by
little Elsie more than 75 years ago. Death’s contribution is a
collection of short essays, quotes, lists, and vignettes about death and
related matters. Carl Jung, the ancient Egyptians, The Duchess of Malfi,
architect Paul Arthur, anthropologist Margaret Mead, and dancer Isadora
Duncan make guest appearances, and there are quotes from authors Anne
Michaels, Robert Kroetch, John Ralston Saul, Robert Burns, Ambrose
Bierce, and Michael Ondaatje.

This is a fun book. By maintaining a tight grip on her material, Quaife
has managed to avoid the ludicrous extremes of both gallows humor and


Quaife, Darlene Barry., “Death Writes: A Curious Notebook,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,