Being Dead – Jim Crace

I don’t remember what prompted me to get hold of Being Dead, but whatever it was, I’m profoundly grateful.

It’s quite an astonishing novel – I remember suggesting it as a read at a book group I belong to a couple of years ago and the reactions at the next meeting weren’t exactly favourable.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Being Dead is a quite macabre book, telling the story of Celice and Joseph, a middle-aged couple who return to Baritone Bay, the scene of their first ‘coupling’ almost 30 years before.

There they hope to recreate their passion in the sand dunes, but unfortunately they are to be disappointed, killed before they get very far at all.

This isn’t a spoiler, as the murder happens in the first couple of pages of the book

This book is beautifully written – the story switches from the one time zone to another and is one of the most descriptive and visceral accounts you will ever read.

And yet, the story is told with love and affection and it unfolds almost like a thriller, but the sentiment and plot is much deeper than that. In fact, it’s a sort of love story, as much as it is a thriller.

Jim Crace has since become one of my favourite writers, with books such as Quarantine (charting what might have happened during Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness) and Arcadia.

But I will always have a soft spot for Being Dead – a short, but perfectly-formed book that deserves a wider audience.

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