4 out of 5 stars
Some people are spooked by graveyards, but I have never found a graveyard spooky or creepy. They are places where time stands still for those at rest. Words and numbers inscribed into a stone tell so much history too, of people who left early to miss the rush and those that evaded the walk across the black sands for a long time.
Uncovering those histories has been something that has captivated Peter Ross and in A Tomb With a View, he finds the stories of the people who inhabit graveyards and the people that still care about them. His journey will take him from the natural burial site of Sharpham Meadow in Devon where he meets Bridgitt and the resting place of her late husband Wayne where she is picking leaves off the discreet stone with his name on.
In Dublin, he goes to the graveyard of Glasnevin to discover its history. It was first known as Prospect Cemetery and the tragic tale of Shane MacThomáis who once told the stories of the people within its walls and took his own life on a tree in the grounds. He is now with his late father in the same plot. Getting married in a graveyard would probably be too much for some people, but for Liz and Shawn, it was the perfect place for a Halloween wedding.
It is not always about the place, sometime it is about the ritual and respect that the dead deserves. Death has been banished to a certain extent, gone are the days when the children in villages would want to see the recently deceased and all trooping up to the bedroom to pay those last respects. Ritual is important to those with faith too, and Ross spends time with a Muslim funeral director who has to collect a prepare a body for burial the following day so the soul can move on.
“Name the different kinds of people,’ said Miss Lupescu. ‘Now.’
Bod thought for a moment. ‘The living,’ he said. ‘Er. The dead.’ He stopped. Then, ‘… Cats?’ he offered, uncertainly.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
I thought that this was a really good book about how we as a modern society are coping with death and how it differs to the way that we treated the dead in the past. It is not morbid or grim to read, rather it has a strong narrative and is sensitively written about those that have departed but not left us. I am slightly surprised that he didn’t go to Brookwood Cemetery, the enormous place of rest just outside Woking; it is quite awe-inspiring walking around there; it does get a mention though. Well worth reading.