Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: Dead Interesting

A couple of weeks ago, a parcel landed through our letterbox, having journeyed the whole way from Dublin (via our old address!). Inside, I discovered a book that was fairly quickly read and immensely enjoyed.

Dead Interesting is a compilation of stories from the graveyards of Dublin, written by one of the tour guides at Glasnevin Cemetery, Shane MacThomáis, and is a fascinating dander through not just the graveyards, but also the full sweep of modern Irish history. Each chapter is short, just a couple of pages, with at least one illustration (one of which is a picture I had taken). This book is guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and learn, in equal measure.

Where else would you be guided through the graves of famous and infamous Irish men; the resting places of Jews and Hugenots; the cholera pits and mass graves; and be informed about graverobbers and funeral rites? There are many memorable and quirky stories contained within, of which these are just a small sample: the boxer's mother who bared her breasts in public; the two brothers buried side by side, one a British soldier and one an Irish rebel; fighters from both sides of the Spanish Civil War; and perhaps the most strange of all, the Belfast member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) buried in the Republican Plot at Glasnevin.

There was just one tiny error in the book, as the author deals with the story of Margorie McCall, with the claim that her burial place was the Shankill graveyard in Belfast. It's actually the Shankill graveyard in Lurgan, from which she emerged to live again for a while, frightening her family as she landed on the doorstep fresh from her grave. But it's an easy mistake to make, given that most people would think of Belfast as being the Shankill in question.

All in all, this is a great little book, and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I'm very grateful to Shane for sending me a copy of it on its publication, and wish him every success for the book. Copies are available from the publishers.

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