July saw the publication of Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead, the debut novel by Emily Austin. As I was scrolling through social media one day its bold cover and intriguing title caught my attention, and on further investigation, where I established this was billed as a darkly humorous read with an anxiety prone protagonist, I knew it would be my kind of book!
From the opening pages I immediately warmed to its narrator, Gilda, a woman whose mind is constantly whirring away with anxious thoughts. These thoughts range from the mundane to the macabre, as she frequently contemplates matters of life and death, but mainly death. A minor car accident results in a trip to the hospital, a place we learn she visits on a regular basis, making her as known to the hospital staff as I am to the staff at my local Waterstones. As she waits, she ponders how those around her, and those before her, will die, and questions how strange it is that as humans we are all so calm, as if our very existence, the way we survive and muddle through our lives in the face of adversity, isn’t a remarkable or terrifying thing. There were certainly elements of Gilda’s character that I could relate to, although not quite to the extremes of Gilda, who in a desperate bid to relieve her anxious mind responds to a flyer offering therapy at a local church. But things don’t quite go as expected as instead of therapy, she finds herself with a new job when she finds herself abruptly hired as a replacement for the recently deceased church receptionist – which is a particularly unusual placement for Gilda who is queer, and also an atheist – and this leads events, and Gilda’s thoughts, to further spiral out of control as her new role finds herself venturing down an unusual path.
I really enjoyed this book and it had me hooked from the start and I flew through it in only a couple of sittings. Through its exploration of Gilda’s troubled mind, the book does venture into macabre territory as our kind hearted heroine is plagued by these frequent thoughts of death and all the things that could go wrong as she journeys through life, but it is written in a way in which it never feels too heavy. The overall feeling of this novel was one of warmth and tenderness as well as dark humour and there were several moments in this book where I actually laughed out loud which is not something I can say very often! Gilda is a wonderful character who I was rooting for throughout and I enjoyed her observations on the strangeness of the human condition, as well as seeing how events turn out for her as she makes those split-second decisions which have a big impact, as she tries desperately to ensure that she is doing what is best for everyone around her, at a time when she is still not sure what is best for herself.
I loved Everyone in this Room will Someday be Dead and thought it was a tender, thought provoking read filled with humour and warmth. It was published on 8th July 2021 by Atlantic Books.