After reading six books that failed to make me giddy with praise, a little book comes along and changes that. I had no idea I was going to like Being Dead by Jim Crace this much. I am not familiar with Crace all that much despite owning a few of his books, but he is really quite something, and definitely a hidden gem among writers from Britain if his other books are this good. It is, just like The Night Watch, a book that does not really do anything special or unique. But the message of this book is something that is truly noteworthy. It manages to take a dark plot, where the two main characters are lying dead in a British sand dune, and proceed to tell a story full of meaning that is both comforting and uplifting, despite the horrific beginnings. It is never saccharine about the subject of death and does not try to bring in religion to explain what happens after the bodies have lost their lives. It takes a very scientific and naturalistic approach to the proceeding events after said death, and in the hands of an unskilled writer, it would have been a brutal examination of the worthlessness of life, and thankfully, it is the exact opposite. As I said before, at the beginning, Joseph and Cecile, both zoologist and married for thirty years, lie murdered in a sand dune. Their murder is graphically described and senseless in it execution and brutality. From there, we are given three separate storylines that center on this murder. We go back in time to see the beginnings of Joseph and Cecile’s relationship, which begin at a cottage nearby the murder site, and a story that is also plagued with the finality and suddenness of death. The present storylines chart the actions of the couple’s daughter, who is somewhat spiteful toward her parents, who we knowingly see headed for a collision course with grief and regret. Finally, the real meat of this novel follows what happens the bodies that lie undiscovered in the dunes, and how nature indifferently takes things over. We see the semi nude bodies of Joseph and Cecile, as they become victims to the elements, from winds that partially bury their bodies to the bugs that feast on their excretions. It is something gross that is somehow described beautifully. And for all these heinous topics being talked about here, I rarely felt bummed out, and felt this book was quite life affirming at the end without being mystical. While the lives of Joseph and Cecile ended violently, as our lives might end as well, it does not make the things we do and the people we love useless and not worth anything. It is actually the fragility and briefness of life that makes things important and relevant, like the bug with a twenty-four hour lifespan that Joseph so lovingly muses on. I am glad I read such a book, and hope it makes you look at the end of life possibly being the actual end with a little less cynicism.