Joseph, keen to find the site in the dunes of their first lovemaking, leads Celice on a nostalgic return visit to the Bay, but the couple are murdered by a passing thief. Undiscovered for days, the bodies become prey to sand-crabs, flies and gulls. One strand moves backwards from the point of the murder to describe the events that immediately led up to it. The third strand describes in scrupulous detail the effect of the elements and the processes of decay on their undiscovered bodies.
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Start your review of Being Dead Write a review Shelves: top-reviews , hidden-gems , mysteries-kinda , sui-generis Life Cycle This is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read, vying with D. And one of the most extraordinary things about it is that it makes no claim to concern itself with world events at all, but something utterly ordinary: the death of a middle-aged couple near a small seaside town.
Which brings me to the first of the four points I offer as demonstration. The Story. Joseph and Celice are zoologists in their later fifties. As the novel opens, they die together shortly after making love in a hollow in the dunes of Baritone Beach, the setting of their very first tryst three decades before. The book is well titled: their death is simply a fact. There is a crime, but no mystery; nobody has much hope of solving it. Instead, what Crace concentrates on is simply death itself, and what happens to the bodies in the six days between being killed and carried away.
He does this in clinical detail which at first seems disgusting, but soon develops its own kind of poetry; this is death as it might be described by a scientist such as Joseph and Celice are themselves. The Handling of Time.
The novel juggles three time-frames simultaneously. One, hour by hour, day by day, is the post-mortem narrative that I mentioned above. Against this, Crace sets a second sequence, describing how the couple arrived at the beach, and moving backwards an hour at a time to Joseph waking Celice at daybreak to tell her that the day promises to be too good to waste indoors. For this is also a portrait of a marriage, a marriage held together by love and parenthood, though no longer by passion.
There are surprises in this story which will affect their later lives, including their last excursion. All in all, this is as much a book about love and companionship as about death. The Setting. Crace is a superb writer, and brilliantly evokes the duneland setting of Baritone Bay so called for the occasional phenomenon of its singing sands and its flora and fauna.
I thought the American Northeast, but no fit there either. I am not the first to note this; I came upon at least one blog entry raising the same questions. The people in the town, too, seem part of the familiar Anglo world, but the drinks they consume, the drugs they take, the customs of their lives, all are slightly unfamiliar: cousinly, not fraternal.
It is a superb balancing act, doubly so in that you are hardly aware of it at all. I suppose it is a kind of science fiction: the everyday world re-imagined through the mind of a scientist.
The Language. Crace invents a linguistic world in order to be master of it, to hold it to the light, turn it on its head, hold it up to the scrutiny of eternity. That reversal of time, for instance. His wife went east. Their bodies had been swept away, at last, by wind, by time, by chance. The continents could start to drift again and there was space in heaven for the shooting stars.