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A Very Easy Death (Pantheon Modern Writers Series) Paperback – February 12, 1985


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Product Details

  • Series: Pantheon Modern Writers Series
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (February 12, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394728998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394728995
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“This book is written with restrained emotion and a literalness, a faithfulness to fact, that is very moving coming from a woman whom we have known as dedicated to abstractions. This is a difficult book to read as it must have been a difficult book to write . . . Unsparing in its depiction of a human being in her inevitable encounter with extinction, it illustrates the general tragedy of the human condition through a particularized instance. A book of near despair, yet dignified.”
Library Journal

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Nanci on March 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a book I would put on a must read list. Death has been spirited away behind closed doors, and banished from our thoughts until it forces its way through, as it always will. This is a must read for anyone working in "Health Care" or with the elderly, also anyone counseling families and the dying. I would hope to find it on a required reading list for medical schools as well. de Beauvoir gives an honest, raw account of her thoughts and fears as her Mother dies; it is a bit reassuring to see that not all of those thoughts are pure and idyllic. She gives any ethics committee a firm reference point in the consideration of assisted death vs. assisted living. Read this book, it will enhance your life.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on July 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have recently read Duras' No More and Ernaux's I Remain in Darkness (both of which I recommend) so when I saw A Very Easy Death I picked it up to read as another take on death. I was disappointed.
Beauvoir writes well - it is sheer pleasure to read some of the descriptive passages where she selects just the right details to set the physical and emotional scenes. Her self-revelation of her surprise at her emotions is often poignent.
However, two aspects of the book disturb me. First, Beauvoir writes as if she knew well what her mother was thinking and assumes that the deception of her Mother worked. Given the number of death images in the mother's dreams and given her gradual detachment from the external world, I suspect that her mother knew she was dying but did not wish to confront her daughters regarding the deception. Beauvoir writes touchingly of the long standing riff between she and her mother - their lack of mutual understanding - then asks me to trust her interpretation of her mother's frame of mind in her last days. A bit more of a stretch than I care to grant.
The second aspect of the book that disturbs me is the ease with which Beauvoir slots particular events into general intellectual categories. For example, when the doctor's exhibit a bad bedside manner, she writes "I bristled when the privileged classes spoke ...".
The book is an interesting reflection on the perceptions and self-examination of the author. It could well be comforting to others going through similar situations. Read it if it appeals, but don't put on any must read list.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By kgaudett@u.washington.edu on April 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
DeBeauvoir writes so that each word holds as much importance as each drip of life-sustaining solution pulsing into her mother's withering limbs. A Very Easy Death leads readers through the changing labyrinth of emotions surrounding the graphically-described death of the author's mother while undergoing care in Paris. On eloquent display is DeBeauvoir's heartache, anger, and confusion regarding the painful treatment of her cancer-ridden mother by two unrelenting doctors. Readers become DeBeauvoir's confidants, as through her torment she reveals her questioning of religion and the human body,as well as society and class issues. An expressive tale that challenges and explores cultural perspectives on death and dying.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Katharena M. Eiermann VINE VOICE on December 29, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Think: dealing with Death and Dying of loved one

"For indeed, comparatively speaking, her death was an easy one. "Don't leave me in the power of the brutes.""

It all boils down to have an operation and perhaps live a bit longer or euthanatize and be done with it. The subject is death and dying is a main theme of Existentialism, as it deals with the individual and reality. Simone de Beauvoir's mother is 78 and lives alone -- by choice. She has broken the main femur (A bone of the leg situated between the pelvis and knee in human beings. It is the largest and strongest bone in the body. Also called thighbone.). While in the hospital, it is discovered that this is the least of her problems, as she has peritonitis, a blockage in her intestine, a tumor, cancer. She will surely die (almost immediately) without an operation. Simone must decide. Very well written, A Very Easy Death takes place over a 4 week period -- that is how long de Beauvoir's mother lived, after the operation -- cramming as much life and reality between the book covers as possible, without being sappy or tedious.

"I thought of all those who have no one to make that appeal: what agony it must be to feel oneself a defenceless thing, utterly at the mercy of indifferent doctors and over-worked nurses. No hand on the forehead when terror seizes them; no sedative as soon as pain begins to tear them; no lying prattle to fill the silence of the void."

This book is about as real as it gets! --Katharena Eiermann, 2006,, the Realm of Existentialism -- Presidential Hopeful
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book was recommended to me after I lost my mother to cancer. The writer, also an adult who lost her mother to cancer, very eloquently describes her conflicts in feelings as her mother's life slips away. These feelings are no doubt those experienced by many adult daughters. This is a must-read for anyone wishing to more fully understand the special feelings between a dying mother and her adult daughters.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
While enjoyable, this isn't a particularly great memoir. I find it to be a bit choppy, and most of the characters (including De Beauvoir herself) come off as exceedingly unlikable. Still, the subject of death is an interesting one, and the novel is short enough that anyone who is interested enough to consider reading it really has nothing to lose.
What I do find most interesting, however, is how De Beauvoir (who consults her over-rated companion Sartre in the memoir) seems to be preaching Albert Camus' concept of the quantitative life, and living life with full consciousness. Ultimately, the memoir is rather tragic because De Beauvoirs' dying, once inauthentic mother realizes this on her death bed, when it's too late. It's an excellent message, and although it's better from Camus' pen, it is interesting hearing it from De Beauvoir as well.
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