After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory by John Casey - review by Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

Burn, Baby, Burn

After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory


Oxford University Press xxpp £22.50

John Casey, a Cambridge English don with a Catholic upbringing followed by many years of doubts, has written an excellent book about what may follow death. Beginning with the ancient Egyptians, the first people to believe in an afterlife, he surveys over 3,000 years of ideas about futurity, concentrating particularly on hell and heaven but, quite rightly, finding a key place for purgatory too.

He was educated at a Jesuit school in Ireland and therefore had comparable experiences to those related so shockingly by James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. At Casey’s school, the sermon on hell that so terrified him (and Joyce) was delivered by

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