Joseph and Celice are academics. They are dead, on a beach.
Being Dead is a heavily stylized, poetic study of the death. There is considerable focus on the natural process of decomposition, narrated in a half detached, half fascinated way. It is certainly not portrayed as anything repulsie - if anything, it is beautiful.
There is also a study of how Joseph and Celice came to be on the beach, dead. Part of this is the immediate, short term. But alongside this, there is the longer story of Joseph and Celice's lives and loves. Plus, there is a bit about the immediate legacy they leave.
It sounds very morbid, but it is a story about love and destiny' about nature and inevitability. Jim Crace writes beautifully and even though very little actually happens in the novel, there is a feeling that each of the issues is dealt with systematically, methodically and with just the right amount of attention. For much of the novel, the reader feels that there must be more to it; that there can't be anything more to say on the subject - but there is. And without ever getting lurid or sensationalist. The balance is perfect.
Being Dead is a masterpiece; it deserves to be famous, it deserves to be studied. But most of all, it deserves to be enjoyed.