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A Tomb With a View: The Stories and Glories of Graveyards: Scottish Non-fiction Book of the Year 2021

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All those lives lived, all those stories now forgotten, some people still remembered, most now just names on a gravestone.

But what really interests Ross are the small stories, tales he says, that are everywhere ‘lying beneath the moss and leaves’. Ross brings both MacThomais and Glasnevin to life, delving into his family history and that of the cemetery, artfully interweaving both with tales of Ireland’s wider history. This is a rambling walk in a whole host of graveyards around the UK from the Victorian London graveyards to the IRA war cemey in Belfast. Each chapter is standalone (although on the basic theme of death and graveyards) and some of them, especially later on, seem a bit unfocused, but I learned a lot and enjoyed it enormously.

With the loss of both my parents, I can see that by visiting these places of memorial we keep those who have passed with us, and we hear their story.

Peter Ross' journey through the graveyards and cemeteries of Britain, as documented in this book, definitely led to some fascinating stories, both about the living and the dead. He would then discuss lots of different graves on these graveyards, sometimes describing an entire biography of one person who was buried there, before moving onto the next grave. A fascinating and brilliant book, so unexpected and so life affirming - if that is not contradictory in a book about the dead. Death should not be seen as taboo and cemeteries need to be seen as something beyond the final resting place of those who have gone before us and as something more than places of mourning.He respectfully observes the rites of different faiths and cultures, looks at Christian, Muslim and Natural burials and talks to the people who organise and carry them out. One such is a patch of wasteland on the edge of a Belfast golf course where Roman Catholic doctrine dictated that un-baptised babies be buried in unconsecrated ground in unmarked graves.

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