On a recent visit to London I saw ‘Necropolis’ on a table on the pavement outside a discount bookshop. I immediately bought it: a writer myself and having written about Paris’s cemeteries (like Père Lachaise) I began reading the book on the Eurostar returning to my home in Paris and on arrival at Gare du Nord station I realised that I had not once lifted my eyes from the book to have looked out the window! The book is *that* fascinating.
There is criticism in the reviews that Author Arnold has some details wrong and also that she wanders off to cemeteries in other countries. Not knowing London cemeteries as I know those of Paris, I was not able to spot the incorrect details (I am sure there are only a few), but the story of London and its dead is such a fascinating one, that I cannot find fault with it.
Author Arnold takes the reader through the streets of London during plagues, pandemics, the two world wars and finally to the day of Princess Diana’s funeral. Personally, I would not have included the Princess’s death, but what Arnold wrote does show how death and mourning have changed over the centuries.
I am going to briefly quote from ‘Necropolis’ (I hope that Catherine Arnold won’t mind) but I want to show potential buyers what they will find in this book.
This is what Author Arnold writes about Horatio Nelson’s death: Elaborate funerals were part of the rich panoply of nineteenth-century life. Horatio Nelson set the standard after he was mortally wounded by a sniper at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Nelson’s body was pickled in brandy, which was replaced with wine in Gibraltar, and brought back to England, amid macabre speculation that the Admiral’s crew had drunk the embalming brandy in transit…
In this book you will discover why black is the colour of mourning, why we eat and drink after a funeral, why we bury in wooden coffins, why some religions forbid the cremation of a body, and so on and so on.
You may say, "not my cup of tea" but I can assure you that the book is by no means depressing or frightening. On the contrary it is very informative.
I am now going to buy Catherine Arnold’s other books because I am certain that they will be as informative and fascinating as this one.