These Silent Mansions: A Life in Graveyards by Jean Sprackland - review by Nigel Andrew

Nigel Andrew

In the Yew Tree’s Shade

These Silent Mansions: A Life in Graveyards


Jonathan Cape 240pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

‘I can remember my life by the graveyards I have known,’ writes the poet Jean Sprackland in the preface to this, her second work of nonfiction (following the deservedly successful Strands). Graveyards for her have always been ‘the otherworlds which have helped make sense of this world’. She finds their mute appeal irresistible: ‘At the church door after a wedding or a funeral, I look for an excuse to detach myself and wander off among the stones I’ve glimpsed over the shoulders of my fellow guests or mourners.’ Other graveyard wanderers – myself included – will smile with recognition at that.

While Sprackland’s memories form the structural spine of this book, it is only to a limited extent autobiographical. Her graveyard reminiscences open out into a wide-ranging, unpredictable and refreshingly original meditation on a huge but widely ignored subject: the relationship between the living and the dead. Wandering in

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