Review : Stiff : the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Stiff : the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Pages : 304
Genre : Non fiction
My Rating :
If you’ve been around my blog for a while, a review of a non-fiction book about the human cadaver is probably not what you’re expecting! And truly, though I have a certain curiosity for shows like C.S.I. or Bones, it’s not something I usually go out of my way to find information about. The positive reviews I had read of this one though really convinced me it was to be read, so when my sister let me borrow it, I couldn’t say no.
From crash test dummies to crucifixion experiments, with chapters on body snatching and organ donation, Mary Roach describes the life of the human cadavers now and before. The author’s approach is fortunately not hardcore science, but rather an historical one, which makes it a comfortable read for those who, like me, can’t remember the last time they had a science class of any kind.
The author also lightens the mood with a good dose of humor, which is particularly appreciated when the descriptions get a bit disgusting (and I’m not going to get into more details here, by respect for those of you who don’t want to read about this while drinking your afternoon coffee). However, I could have done without the author’s personal insights on some aspects, where she inserted personal remarks that had nothing to do with the subject at hand, probably in the hope of making it all a little less dark. Her humor generally worked for me, (and, in fact, was welcomed!) but since I wasn’t reading to hear about her personal life outside this specific research, these passages distracted me.
That being said, reading Stiff was such a fun experience. I learned lots of things that would do great weird small talk (let me tell you about head transplants!) and Roach’s style is really easy to get into. While some of her personal insights annoyed me, her personal approach to this research had a lot of heart in it. She showed a lot of compassion for the bodies, all the while keeping a respectful distance from their life before death. It really was about the material body, and not about the person they used to be. She also didn’t shy away from asking the questions we’re dying (ah!) to ask, making this a book that will satisfy even the most curious readers!
In the end, I kind of forgot, in a way, what I was reading about. I wasn’t too grossed out, as I had expected to be, and went through the book as quickly as I would have with any fiction novel. If you have any curiosity on the subject but haven’t really read on it before, this could be a great start 🙂