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How does life begin? What does it mean? What happens when we die? “All anyone can do is ask,” Lepore writes. “That’s why any history of ideas about life and death has to be, like this book, a history of curiosity.” Lepore starts that history with the story of a 17th-century Englishman who had the idea that all life begins with an egg and ends it with an American who, in the 1970s, began freezing the dead. In between, life got longer, the stages of life multiplied, and matters of life and death moved from the library to the laboratory, from the humanities to the sciences.
Lately, debates about life and death have determined the course of American politics. Each of these debates has a history. Investigating the surprising origins of the stuff of everyday life - from board games to breast pumps - Lepore argues that the age of discovery, Darwin, and the space age turned ideas about life on earth topsy-turvy. “New worlds were found,” she writes, and “old paradises were lost.”
As much a meditation on the present as an excavation of the past, The Mansion of Happiness is delightful, learned, and altogether beguiling.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sean on 06-25-12
The book does not engage in any philosophical discussion of life and death, despite the title. The author talks about breast pumps, cryogenics and birth control without venturing an opinion about them.
She seems more interested in the biographies of people who were associated with various movements than in discussing our attitudes of life and death. Rather than taking a stand on an issue the reader is left to determine the author's position by how sympathetically she paints the protagonists. The subject matter is so rich it is hard to believe that she did not dive into it with more conviction.
The performance is very good. It is read with excellent pacing and inflection and the narrator's voice is pleasant.
Despite the title this is not a reflection on life and death. I'm still not sure what it is.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful