For this month’s book review, I wanted to look at Carolyn Campbell’s debut book, City of Immortals Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. I found out about this book through the Association for Gravestone Studies. It is February’s book, for the AGS book club.
City of Immortals is in part history, a first-person account, and a guided tour. Carolyn takes us through the rich history of this legendary necropolis, while also sharing her connections to it. She also sheds light on the stories of the most notable figures laid to rest at Père-Lachaise. This book also includes 3 guided tours and an illustrated map, with detailed directions to take you throughout the cemetery.
“This first-person account of a legendary necropolis will delight Francophiles, tourists, and armchair travelers while enriching the experience of taphophiles (cemetery lovers) and aficionados of art and architecture, mystery, and romance. Carolyn Campbell’s evocative images are complemented by those of renowned landscape photographer Joe Cornish.” – Book synopsis
This is a beautiful book. It boasts a built-in ribbon bookmark, a satin finish cover, glossy pages, and a pull-out illustrated map of the cemetery. The illustrated map was a lovely surprise. I enjoyed this book, for the most part. I loved exploring the rich history of the place. The only aspect of the book I didn’t like was Chapter 3 – Conversations with the immortals. In this chapter, Carolyn holds Q&A conversations with some of the more notable figures buried in the cemetery. I assume she did her research to come up with the answers to her interview-style questions, but these notable figures have passed on—some over a hundred years ago. It sometimes comes across as she is putting words into these people’s mouths. I understand it as a narrative device, but I think it may have been a poor choice. That chapter could have been better used to describe more of the rich history of the cemetery, while the information gleaned from her “conversations” could have been included in the tours. That being said, the walking tours are very well directed and had me feeling like I was wandering the graves in person. This book would be a great resource to bring along if I were to ever visit in person. I also have to mention the gorgeous photography in this book. It runs the gamut from detailed shots of individual tombs while also showcasing the beauty of the landscape as a whole.
Overall, I did enjoy this book. Especially now, during a pandemic, it’s a great way to travel without leaving the comfort of my couch. It also is a good starting point for planning a future trip when things return to a more comfortable state of normal. I would say this is a great addition to any cemetery or travel library and would be a valuable resource as a guide to visiting Père-Lachaise Cemetery.
Have your read this book? What did you think? Have you ever visited Père-Lachaise Cemetery? Tell me about it in the comments.
Thanks for reading!