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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 4 July 1999
Spine chilling and funny in equal measures. This frank revalation of the American funeral industry builds on her first book on the subject many years ago. Enough to make anyone wish to be burried in a cardboard box on their own land!
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VINE VOICEon 25 February 2011
This book has nearly taken as long as to read War & Peace - and it's much slimmer - her writing style is great but it's all densely argued with withering humour and acerbic analysis. Actually I run the UK Business Book Festival and I would say that this is one of the best exposes of capitalism you'll ever read. Learning what the funeral director gets up to, the psychological tricks and intricate billing style, you wonder what IFA's and insurance salespeople get up to. Mitford is so caustic, you start to feel sympathy for the American mortician and his rather simple desire to make a fast buck.

I read this book because I'm organising the first Six Feet Under Convention in August 2011, and I wanted to get an in depth knowledge of the issues in the funeral business. I've got lots of leads now. There isn't a nook or a cranny of the industry Mitford doesn't explore. You can see where Alan Ball got a lot of his ideas from.
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on 26 July 2015
I have just received this book and although I am sure the content lives up to expectation, the print , however is far too small to read comfortably. I have discarded this copy and am going to buy the hardback to see if it is any better. It is one thing publishing a book in paperback for economy but this book has been rendered an "awkward"read. Just to elaborate, I do not have problems reading small print but prefer to read for pleasure without the need of a magnifying glass! The one star review is for the print...NOT the content in any way.
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on 4 August 2014
This is a fascinating account, and put forward in such a witty way. Despite the humour, though, it is infuriating to see how a cold business model is so harshly applied to families at a time when they are vulnerable and their normal purchasing defences are down. I am sad to see similar practices being introduced in the UK, including the sale of embalming as a "hygienic treatment" - since most British funerals do not have an open coffin (and long may it continue!) there is absolutely no need for any sort of embalming and it is not necessary for hygiene. Spiralling coffin costs are down to hard sell, and in the UK the small, family owned company you think you know may well be part of a multi-national group.

The topic may be rather gruesome, but the book is certainly worth a read - if only to protect yourself and your family from unscrupulous salesmen. But it's also a very entertaining read, and exceptionally well written!
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Armed with this extremely readable minor masterpiece and its fictional counterpart, Waugh's 'The Loved One', you should be safe from the depredations of the modern mass-produced American funeral. A funeral founded in a 'tradition' with roots no-where, in fact entirely spurious. In her devastating cool prose, Decca Mitford puts the stiletto in alright, abetted unwittingly by the funeral spokesmen (they usually are) sometimes taking aim at her for the book's first edition. It is very funny but also sad, not least when one plaintiff is quoted in court anatomizing EXACTLY how his loved one hadn't been embalmed for eternity as promised. See the morticians hoist on their own sorry petard. The details provided are astonishing, from Herodotus on embalming, to the use of psychology to sell coffins, sorry CASKETS, and the invention of the 'need' for a good 'memory picture' to provide what we might now call 'closure'. Like double-glazing sellers these people see a sale EVERYWHERE, 'pre-need' if necessary; the language of this milieu is full of ghastly euphemisms and with Waugh should have put paid to 'loved one' itself. Doubtless were she writing now the cant-hating Mitford would judiciously employ 'wellness' and 'empathy' with gay abandon, alert as she was to the disingenuous triumph even over death that the embalmer's dubious art claims to provide, IF one has enough ready cash. As much as anything this book is testament to the disfiguring quality of greed. One of my favourite books; the final chapter is a useful addition, especially as she identifies attempts to introduce this sort of grave-robbing to the U.K. and it is a pity that she is not going to write more.
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on 17 August 2015
Jessica Mitford does not need me to add to the many, many thousands who have enjoyed this send-up of American funeral practices. It's a classic and accepted as such.
Long before I read it, many decades ago now, I was talking to one of the nuns who had taught my sisters at primary school. She had just returned from the States where she had pursued studies as a canon lawyer for the Westminster Diocese. Whilst living in the convent of her order in, I think, New York, she experienced something that had marked her so much that she related it to me. One of the elderly sisters had gone to her heavenly reward. In old age she was renowned for knitting masses of clothing for under-privileged children. Sister Mercedes, expecting that she had been laid out in the convent chapel, went there to pray but the chapel was empty. Coming out, she asked one of the passing sisters where the deceased was, and learnt that she was in one of the convent parlours.
Entering the room a short while later she was horrified to see that the late lamented had been seated, in full habit, in a rocking chair, that, connected somehow to electricity was actually rocking gently. The elderly nun's fingers had been set to hold her knitting needles, and the tasteless, disrespectful tableau had been completed with a half-finished cardigan and a ball of wool in her lap!
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on 27 July 2010
Gallows humour, but so funny and eye popping! Especially as it is all real! Like all the Mitford books, very readable and worth a place on your bookshelf.
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on 27 May 2016
I thought this was supposed to be funny....anything but. One chapter was enough. This, I think, is the 1st

bad review I wrote.
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on 23 April 2015
Brilliant and witty with sound economic grounding. This industry is excellent in illustrating Porters 5 Forces -prof Tony Grundy
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on 10 November 2016
A very good book. You'll be left feeling both enraged and excited. Definitely recommend.
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