Book review: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From The Crematorium

Caitlin Doughty Canongate,€20.55; ebook, €13.64

Cremating a baby’s corpse doesn’t take long if you have perfected the ‘toss’ into the furnace. Be warned: Caitlin Doughty’s book is full of brutal and frank details about death and its modern rituals. This witty mortician’s memoir is morbid and sharply observed, but death lurks behind everything.

Doughty’s aim is to revolutionise how society thinks about dying. “We are all just future corpses,” she says, asking us to face the fact. The ‘death industry’ is obsessed with denial, ignoring that we will rot and decay: she is aghast at ordering a cremation over the internet (with the ashes posted out weeks later). It’s an unhealthy relationship with where we’ll all end up. Doughty edges the reader from revulsion to acceptance of mortality, although the sympathy for cannibalism may be too much for some. Doughty exhaustively provides a philosophically punchier update to Jessica Mitford’s The American Way Of Death. It is a brave book for brave readers and it may change your death.


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