Euphonious titles for books about death seem to be inexhaustible. You could be forgiven for thinking that Shakespeare and Keats wrote about nothing else. In this sense, Melanie King is right to claim that death is not a taboo. Yet it requires only a short time in the silent company of the recently bereaved or people with terminal illnesses to confirm that some form of awkwardness continues. What has developed over recent decades is a growing recognition that death is a subject that needs a public airing if the dying and bereaved are not to be ghettoised. These three books all share that perception.
The Dying Game is a wide-ranging historical survey of our eccentric and often entertaining efforts to cope with death. It reads like an anthology of morticians’ tales, the written equivalent of curios in a museum of thanatology. There is a ‘didn’t know that’ moment on nearly every page. The average