• The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
  • Mary Roach

Over the years I’ve started to become a bit of a ghoul. I think at one time the whole death and dissection thing was a bit stomach churning. Now I do find it quite fascinating… but in a healthy way.

The book covers everything you would ever want to know about the human vessel and its eventual disposal. Body donation, decay, crash test cadavers, bullet and bomb testing, crucifixion, burials, head transplants, cannibalism and composting. All of it just oozes with a delicious sense of humour.

I was more shocked by the fact that medical schools can hire a ‘pelvic educator’. This isn’t a rubber cross section but a woman who is certainly not being paid enough.

The chapter on being buried alive was interesting. The recently deceased were all placed a room, this was before mortuaries, and were left there on the off chance that they were just having an extended nap. The strange thing is that they had the male and female bodies in different rooms, just in case.

Just to be certain that you weren’t going to come back to life you could have a bell attached to the coffin lid. If you woke up and found yourself in an enclosed space you could pull on the string that has been conveniently placed in your hand. Which is were the phrase ‘Saved By The Bell’ originated from.

Obviously the Chinese take the gold medal for the strangest recipe, Scream Three Times. A baby mouse is taken from it’s mother, one scream, dropped in hot fat, two screams and then eaten, three screams.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who has a taste for the macabre.

Other books in a similar vein
Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary “Body Farm” by Patricia Cornwell, Bill Bass, and Jon Jefferson
How We Die by Sherwin B. Nuland

  • Reviewed on Sunday, 01 June 2008
  • Tagged with book review