The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - review by Brenda Maddox

Brenda Maddox

A Claim Too Far

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


Macmillan 369pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

My brother-in-law once exploded in rage while watching the sight of a grieving family weeping on television over the loss of a body part of a loved one. Something had been removed and used for research and they wanted it back. ‘What does it matter?’ he cried. ‘When you're dead, you're dead!’

If you share that view, you will not be moved by The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, even though the jacket predicts that the book will take Britain by storm.

Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer at the age of thirty-one in October 1951. Her adult children were enraged when learning much later that their late mother's cells had been taken and used in research all over the world. Some of the cells had been shot into space.

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