The Death of Ivan Ilych - Leo Tolstoy This is the story of the life and - as the title indicates - the death of an ordinary man. Ivan Ilych is not a particularly likeable character, nor are his wife and children, nor the colleagues who also appear in the narrative. And yet, the story of Ivan's death is powerful and moving, simply but exquisitely told. Ivan's anger, his fear, his resentment are all unflinchingly described.

I've spent the past few months acutely aware of mortality. A close friend died suddenly a few months ago. Two other women I know well have inoperable cancer. My mother is frail and elderly and every time I see her I know I may never see her alive again. That sense of being surrounded by death in life is something that all of us face as we age.

Talking about dying and death is not something we do much of in our society, even though it is something which occurs every moment of every day. Reading this book, as short as it is, brings the reader face to face with that perience. No matter how ordinary a person, no matter how ordinary their life, each death is unique - an extraordinary experience for the person concerned.

This is not easy reading, but it is something to read and remember.