Sunday, November 13, 2011

Necropolis: London and Its Dead

For every person living in London, how many hundreds have been buried beneath the city? Enough that some of the Underground tunnels curve because the piles of buried, tangled bones were too dense to dig through. Catherine Arnold takes us on a tour of death, from the pre-Roman burial mounds through Roman funeral ceremonies, the mass graves of the Black Death, the scandals of overfilled and seeping cemeteries, the Victorian cult of mourning, and modern day practices. While generally interesting, Necropolis is essentially a survey of funeral practices, mentioning most and giving deep attention to few. I would have liked a little more detail, particularly about the rather morbid Victorians. Arnold has written three books (so far) about less savory aspects of London's history, and I hope her tours of madness and sin are a bit more enlightening.

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