Book review: Necropolis: London and its dead (Catharine Arnold)

Title: Necropolis: London and its dead
Author: Catharine Arnold
Page count: 274
Rating: 2/5 stars (on Goodreads) 


No real spoilers inside (it`s all history anyway), but trigger warnings for discussions of death, the plague, and cemeteries.

I`ve been interested in topics to do with death for a while now. I`m terrified of it, and my usual response to anything I`m scared of is to learn as much about as I can. This is no exception.

It helps that I came across a Tumblr post a while ago that talked about the London underground and how it has to twist around some mass graves from the plague era, which caught my attention enough to make a video about it.

During research for that video, I kept coming across bits and pieces of this book, and decided I was going to just buy it and see what the rest was like.

I have to admit though, I was a bit disappointed. It was an interesting book, yes, though it had less humour than I expected (or maybe I just didn`t pick up on it). I found it difficult to stay focused and actually get through the book, which therefore took me quite a while.

The book spends a large part on just the Victorian era, going into great detail. This is bound to be interesting for a lot of people (trust me, I know plenty of steampunks who would love this), but for me, being more generally interested in history on a whole, this section on Victorian cemeteries was a bit too long.

It also tends to go back and forth through time which could get confusing, and I`d have liked more information on burials during the two world wars and after that, but Arnold seems to kind of rush through those.

Still, I did finish the book so it has some merit, at least. I did learn a lot of interesting facts, and for interested people this is a goldmine of information.

Another consequence is that now, whenever I see a cemetery I immediately wonder how many people are actually buried there, as record keeping seems to have been questionable at best in earlier centuries.

So do I recommend this book? If you`re interested in the topic: yes. If you just have a general interest in history and/or London, this might not be for you.

(Currently reading: The Long War, by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, part 2 of the Long Earth series).

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