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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensible ghost stories etc..
Encouraged by its favourable Observer review, I tucked into this well-written, unpretentious book expectantly. Watkins's writing is unlike many academics': he eschews jargon and is wry, always elegant and extremely readable. He has done his research too; the anecdotes are the fruit of much labour in the archives and the folk tales and folk-ways he relates give a...
Published 23 months ago by Mr. G. Morgan

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting views about death traditions
Well written, detailed account of traditions associated with death. Revealing changes in attitude to the possibilities of an afterlife.. Lots of people included whose lives and views are quite obscure.
Published 8 months ago by Mrs. Linda Tucker


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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensible ghost stories etc.., 25 Jan 2013
By 
Mr. G. Morgan "wes" (Haywards Heath, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Undiscovered Country: Journeys Among the Dead (Hardcover)
Encouraged by its favourable Observer review, I tucked into this well-written, unpretentious book expectantly. Watkins's writing is unlike many academics': he eschews jargon and is wry, always elegant and extremely readable. He has done his research too; the anecdotes are the fruit of much labour in the archives and the folk tales and folk-ways he relates give a flavour of the past I have rarely encountered in books. He is interesting on the relation of ghosts and extant theology, generous by nature (not for him 'the enormous condescension of posterity') and the book is a delightful tour of the World of Death reflected in the beliefs of the English, (for it is mostly 'us'). It is assuredly NOT morbid except in the very narrowest sense and is also for the squeamish, an important rider as I have got some undeserved strange looks reading it in public!
A must for all thoughtful devotees of social history and ghost stories; and for those interested in the vicissitudes of faith and its fading in our age and the effects on the living and our forbears. Painless history indeed.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down amongst the dead, 12 Feb 2013
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Chris Whitaker "Chris" (Crawshawbooth,Lancs UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Undiscovered Country: Journeys Among the Dead (Hardcover)
The initial reason why I bought this book was that the cover caught my eye whilst looking for something else, I had no knowledge previously of the author or indeed the book, despite the fact that this has only recently been released. I was expecting dark gothic tales of ghouls and terrors across England but got something quite different, and enough difference to make me angry whenever I had to put the book down and go and do something else... Carl Watkins narrative is sometimes intense and jam-packed full of minute details of historical events that took place around the country from the 1300's up to Victorian times... yet, each minute detail I devoured and craved for more as I turned each page, marvelling at the lengths John Baret had gone to in order for his soul to be cleansed in purgatory after he had passed, lengths he went to in his lifetime, including a tomb which he commissioned himself and gazed upon from his pew in church as he prayed, from ghostly visitations on the moors in Yorkshire, priest's promises, John Martin's exceptional triptych depicting his vision of judgement day to the Medieval poltergeist that half of England assumed was the reason for the Tedworth phantom drummer. Watkins is a fabulous writer and one that manages to captivate the reader from cover to cover despite cramming so much exceedingly-well-researched history into every page, this mixed with the not-to-be-forgotten reason why the book IS... death... it comes to us all, and after reading this book you just might be a little more scared about dying....
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre, but interesting, 23 April 2013
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Peter Mercer (Lisburn, N. Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This was a good, interesting account of the British attitude to the rituals of death down the centuries. Perhaps not the first thing that would come to mind when looking for holiday reading, but I was encouraged by a newspaper review and found it well worth the effort.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death & Society, 16 Oct 2014
By 
Douglas Kemp (Northamptonshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Undiscovered Country: Journeys Among the Dead (Hardcover)
Until quite recently, the subject of death was not a subject that attracted considerable academic interest. It was left mostly to the church to pontificate upon the nature of the afterlife, with chilling descriptions of the warm penalties awaiting the sinner. This has changed, with a stream of studies dealing with the unavoidable topic that will come to us all in the end. As with many contemporary approaches to history, Carl Watkins takes the bottom up way – looking at the experiences and beliefs of a few individuals from the late medieval period onwards – to assess and analyse how society in general has changed its attitudes towards death and the afterlife, with the declining rôle of the church. The writing is thoroughly engaging, and the extensive footnotes provide a vast array of sources for the reader who may well wish to explore a little further the subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read for a morbid subject, 1 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Undiscovered Country: Journeys Among the Dead (Hardcover)
This is a rather odd book, in that it's hard to categorise. Author Carl Watkins takes the reader on a journey of English (almost exclusively) people's attitudes to death from the end of the Dark Ages through to the aftermath of WWI. It's roughly chronological, and takes existing objects and relics of the past to examine our changing society. Watkins makes elegant surmises without cramming either his knowledge or his conjecture down the reader's throat, and he has an expressive, sometimes wry tone and style of writing. There are copious notes to explain sources etc.

It may in fact be unfair of me to deny the book the fifth star that other reviewers have given it, but I felt I had to do so because I wasn't sure how much of the 'country' I had discovered after reading. I am not a particular fan of the macabre, but I knew most of the nuggets Watkins offers up, and there seems no real narrative thrust to the read. It is not and doesn't claim to be comprehensive, so this is simply a collection of the author's favourite anecdotes on death that he feels illustrate his theories. This may well be my shortcoming and not his, of-course. I wasn't sure what to expect when I bought the book and perhaps my vague disappointment is undeserved. Perhaps it's just that we don't actually journey among the dead at all, but remain frustratingly as we always do, until the final moment, firmly among the living!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 22 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Undiscovered Country: Journeys Among the Dead (Hardcover)
This is absolutely riveting! Could hardly put it down. A must read for anyone interested in the medieval church or in the social history of the Middle Ages - although the content extends further. It is well written in an engaging style.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journeys among the Dead, 16 Feb 2013
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Mrs. V. E. Hunt (Dorset UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Undiscovered Country: Journeys Among the Dead (Hardcover)
I have almost finished this book and have found it an enjoyable and fascinating read, despite its title. It is very readable and shows how attitudes to death have changed over the centuries by way of tales from various parts of the country.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fresh and well researched book at the fringes of our beliefs about death, 13 April 2013
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This review is from: The Undiscovered Country: Journeys Among the Dead (Hardcover)
The author has delved deep into the past, and then drawn us through the years to almost our own day, lookoing at the changing attitudes to death, but more importantly the changing understanding of death and the changing interpretations of the teachings and insights of the source documents - the Bible.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting views about death traditions, 6 April 2014
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Well written, detailed account of traditions associated with death. Revealing changes in attitude to the possibilities of an afterlife.. Lots of people included whose lives and views are quite obscure.
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The Undiscovered Country: Journeys Among the Dead
The Undiscovered Country: Journeys Among the Dead by Carl Watkins (Hardcover - 17 Jan 2013)
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