7 Imaginative But Most Peculiar Novels About Death

Writer, blogger and self proclaimed word-nerd Harriet Allner, presents the first in a series of special posts for Death & the Maiden that explore death in literature. This week’s novels take various questions about human life and death, exploring them in interesting, challenging ways. Examining how we construct horrors and hopes around dying, how we use story to sooth our anxieties and investigate our fascinations with the deceased.

the-bell-jar

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Rest In Pieces

To celebrate the paperback release of Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses, author Bess Lovejoy is giving away a signed copy of her book. Rest in Pieces catalogs stories from the age of antiquity to today, tracing the evolution of cultural attitudes toward death and connecting the lives of the famous deceased to the hilarious and horrifying adventures of their corpses. For Death & the Maiden, Bess shares the story of Eva Perón.  As eventful as the First Lady of Argentina’s life, Evita would go on to make further public appearances, travel and continue to cause a political stir before her body was finally laid to rest.

 

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Beauty Secrets of The Martyrs

Historian, Verity Holloway’s first novella Beauty Secrets of The Martyrs is about magic, makeup, crypts, and clownfish. But mostly, it’s about our obsession with keeping the dead around. Here Verity shares how this book began as a few notes and takes us back to her first encounter with the incorrupt body of Saint Spyridon in Corfu. Verity explains by arranging our holy dead gorgeously, draping them with costly decorations, or simply bringing them out and enjoying a feast in their presence, we are create a feedback loop of hope and joy. If we love the dead, they may love us in return.

Beauty-Secrets-of-the-Martyrs

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Midwives, Layers-Out, and Lady Pole

Patricia Lundy explores the relationship between women and death by reflecting on two books. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty’s memoir on her experience (past and current) in the death industry and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, with specific focus on Lady Pole. In this post Patricia entertains the idea that death is an important facet of female identity, and when it is stripped away, this identity, as well as female autonomy, is stripped away as well.

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The Winter of Our Lives

Death & the Maidens’ own Lucy Talbot talks with Dr Monica Williams-Murphy about her role as Emergency Medicine Physician, the experiences that led her to write the wonderful It’s OK to Die and travel across America educating and advocating for a better approach to death and dying. Explaining why we all need to prepare for the inevitable ‘Winter of Our Lives’.

Williams Murphy

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Tears Become Ideas

In some places, the ability to sing or recite ritual laments became part of a feminine portfolio of skills, along with cooking, spinning, mending and cleaning. Here, author Sarah Murray shares an adaptation from her wonderful book Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre, How We Dignify the Dead to give us insight into this mourning practice.

Murray

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