Rambling about books

Book review: Severed: A history of Heads Lost and Heads Found, by Frances Larson

Book cover from Goodreads

From the western collectors whose demand for shrunken heads spurred brutal massacres, to the Second World War soldiers who sent the remains of Japanese opponents home to their girlfriends; from the memento mori in Romantic portraits to Damien Hirst’s platinum skull set with diamonds; from grave-robbing phrenologists to skull-obsessed scientists, Larson explores the bizarre, fantastical and confounding history of the severed head, and offers us a new perspective on our macabre preoccupations.

Well, well if I weren’t too lazy, then I don’t know what other reason do I have for not posting a review about this book. There’s something a bizarre part of history that always fascinate me; I love history, I really do, but a much more bizarre part of it is something I love more. This book gives me just the right amount of history and bizarreness, at least judging from the prologue only. It was a very promising start. Too promising if I’m being particular about it.

Here’s a question before I dwell further into my rambling, can a book be both brilliant and boring? I think it can, at least this book sure is both brilliant and boring. The first few chapters were amazing. It was just as intriguing and promising as the prologue, but as I am halfway into the book, it was a total snoozefest. At that point, I kept on rolling my eyes and wondered when will this book end. It was so boring; it was information after information after information with no fun and bizarreness in between; it’s almost like reading your high school text book on history (and this is coming from someone who actually likes reading her high school history text book).

I was expecting a book about the history of heads, famous or not. And although I did get some histories on famous people’s heads and the not so famous ones (but eventually became famous anyway, due to the nature of its head), the book were more about the history kinds of heads. From decapitated heads, to heads being a collectible items. I don’t know what went wrong. Was I lead to believe something different when I read this book’s prologue, or I’m the one who’s missing the whole picture of the book?

Okay, I’m making no sense, am I? Put it simply, if you’re into history (bizarre or not), this is not a bad book (it’s not great either). But, here’s the interesting part; more than one occasion did the author bring the topic about death. It talks about how soldiers try to numb themselves of the fear of death while on the battle field by collecting their enemies’ skull and refurbishing (and I am using this term lightly) the said skull into other usable objects (such as ashtray, etc.).

Another interesting about this book, is learning more into the history of scientists and their endeavour in collecting heads, all in the name of science. My, how far science has evolved from the by-gone era, and yet we can still how cynical a scientists can be in treating human remains, again, all in the name of science. All in all this book is many things; it is a history book about heads, about kinds and ways of execution, about science, about famous people, abut war, about indigenous people and many more. So, if you’re into history and don’t have any complaints about filling your heads (ha! see what I did there?) with clusters of information, then by no means do give this book a try.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️☆☆

Title: Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found

Author: Frances Larson

Genre: History, Non Fiction

Goodreads link

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