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Past Mortems: Life and Death Behind Mortuary Doors
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Past Mortems: Life and Death Behind Mortuary Doors

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  589 ratings  ·  83 reviews

A day in the life of Carla Valentine - curator, pathology technician and 'death professional' - is not your average day. She spent ten years training and working as an Anatomical Pathology Technologist: where the mortuary slab was her desk, and that day's corpses her task list.

Past Mortems tells Carla's stories of those years, as well as investigating the body alongside ou

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published April 6th 2017 by Sphere
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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  589 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: july-2017
I found the subject matter interesting and the author seems like she would make a great dinner party guest. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the structure of the book had been more cohesive. The book was fragmented and I had no idea what time frame anything occurred in. Also I'm not that bright so all the technical terms were difficult to understand. She should have dumbed it down a bit.

That being said Past Mortems was a quick and fun look at a dark and serious vocation. I'm morbid so bo
When I ask myself if I’d change any of the life decisions I made in my life, the only thing I can usually think about is my utterly useless archaeology degree. I know: I was in love with the science and wanted to give my dream a shot. But life unfolds in unexpected ways, and then you end up doing a job that has nothing to do with what you studied in, and paying back a student loan, wondering why you spent all this money for a degree you aren’t using. When my brain goes down that road, what I oft ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A day in the life of Carla Valentine a curator, pathology technician and 'death professional' She spent ten years training and working as an Anatomical Pathology Technologist: where the mortuary slab was her desk.
Past Mortems tells Carla's stories of those years, as well as investigating the body alongside our attitudes towards death - shedding light on what the living can learn from the dead and the toll the work can take on the living who carry it out. Some real laugh out loud moments througho
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: four-star
A rare glimpse at life behind the UK’s mortuary doors. Many books similar to this are from the other side of the atlantic, so it was refreshing to read about how death is professionally handled on home soil.

The author is gracious and respectful and oh so protective of the profession she loves. From a very young age she knew what she was destined to do; and do it well she did. Her book documents her journey from novice to professional mortician and further to her current role as museum curator.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
я люблю патологоанатомічні мемуари, тому й цей дочитала. загалом же це така underwhelming книжка, якій я навіть не знаю, що допомогло б. написати її про іншу людину, може.

власне, це найбільша проблема тексту: він значно менше про життя за дверима моргу, ніж про життя карли валентайн. а вона й персонажка не найяскравіша, й історій захопливих не дуже багато має, тому читачам треба вдовольнятися фрагментиками про те, як вона ходила в телевізор і всі її там любили, як вона у присутності шефині назва
Jun 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
Carla Valentine is a small, blonde woman. You’ll know this because she mentions it at least three times every chapter. A police officer visiting the mortuary is in shock when Valentine - a petite, blonde woman! - opens the door. An adult is flabbergasted when Valentine - a petite, blonde girl - says she wants to be a mortician when she grows up! In one scene, Valentine gets her family to watch footage of her cracking open the ribs of a cadaver and smugly tells the reader of their shock and awe a ...more
Ruthy lavin
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I have slight Thanatophobia (the fear of death) so of course I adore reading these type of books and find them soooo compelling!
This account of her very interesting life in the land of mortuaries and museums, makes Carla Valentine seem like the perfect dinner guest who has some fantastic stories to tell!
This is a very well written debut autobiographical book, and I was fascinated by her desire from a young age to be in this line of work.
A good read.
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carla Valentine documents her personal journey to becoming an Anatomic Pathology Technologist (or mortician, as she prefers). With humour, compassion and scholarship she explains the need for post mortem examination and describes all aspects of it in vivid detail. For me, what shines from every page is how much she cares: for the bereaved families, for society as a whole and in particular for the dead themselves.

Mortuaries are strange and demanding places, physically, emotionally and organisatio
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyable. I love the death positive movement and Carla's writing style is humorous and easy to read. I felt this was a really good mixture of her personal and professional life, written in a way that made me feel like I'd seen a little window into her life and it left me wondering if I could do a job like that.
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read this book if you're interested in Carla Valentine.
Don't read this book if you're interested in pathology.
Amanda Provan
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
“Past Mortems: Life & Death Behind Mortuary Doors” is a recollection of the experiences Carla Valentine had when she was an APT (Anatomical Pathology Technologist)…… aka a Mortician.

It was everything I had hoped for and more! I first saw this book as a recommendation on Goodreads about 7 months or so ago and I’ve been dying to read it ever since (no pun intended!).
Carla Valentine wanted to be a Mortician since she was nine years old and she carried through her dreams and made them into reali
Kevin Valgaeren
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most fascinating book I read in a very long time.
Honor Grainger-Howard
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2019
Loved it! It was so well written I loved that she entwined her story with the practicalities of a post mortem.
Angelique Simonsen
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was quite good. the author has a great sense of morbid humour and it was sufficiently gory enough for me. mostly technical.... a lot of acronyms though so beware lol there's a few to remember
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Enlightening and honest. I really enjoyed this and learned a lot - I've always been interested in death and funeral customs, but this has made me want to learn more.
Sophie Mazz'
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing

The book is intriguing from the very first page to the last. It allows a window in to both the authors life and pathology.
The experiences written about in the book are completely relatable to most of the audience.
The window into pathology shows what is required to follow through the door into a life of death.
Once again a great book, super hard to put down when reading.
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me by a very good friend while perusing the new arrivals at the book store. I was not only intrigued by the inventive cover but also by the author's account of her work in the death industry as an APT (Anatomical Pathology Technician) which is rare considering the ever present taboo against death and how we as a society deal with death (biologically and culturally). As a fellow "death professional" I found Carla Valentine's memoir of her experiences refreshing and hi ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I feel a little awkward going against the grain here... but I did not enjoy this book. I was expecting stories around autopsy and I only got three, maybe four autopsy stories in the whole book. I found the narration slightly narcissistic at times. I enjoyed the bits about history, but towards the end I was over it! I felt like I'd read a history book slash autobiography, which is not what I paid for. This wasn't a bad book, it just isn't what it is advertised as. Which irked me. I'm disappointed ...more
Owen Townend
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is becoming increasingly apparent that women are leading the movement to change minds about death.

Caitlin Doughty is the most obvious pioneer, at least to me, but here we have another sprightly young woman keen to blow off the proverbial cobwebs from the coffin.

Valentine's passion for post mortems is apparent from the word go as is his her keen understanding of common fears and superstitions surrounding death.

Though certain descriptions of the process made me squeamish (don't get me started o
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
I discovered Carla Valentine after hearing her talk about her job on one of my favourite podcasts. Her job sounded truly fascinating, so I hurriedly bought this book in the hopes of hearing more similarly enthralling and macabre tales.

The book started off well, and I enjoyed learning about some of the more technical aspects of her role. However, I found that the further I read, the more technical and science-based the text became. I opted for this book because I wanted fascinating stories and a
Kim Thorley
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
I think the author missed a trick here. This should have been a fascinating book on all things pathology; procedures, cases she'd worked on, working in a morgue etc., yet it was quite lacking in those aspects and was more about her life in general. I was expecting much more and felt if she'd done this it would have been a much better, and bigger book to read. I did wonder if she'd been vague just so she could bring another book out??

It's interesting , and very easy-to-read. It doesn't take long
Baal Of
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely delightful insight into the life of a real working mortician. I would have liked most of the gory details in many parts, but I was still won over by Valentine's conversation details about her life, and how it related to her work. This was a surprisingly personal book, as I went into it expecting a much more clinical and scientific approach. I find myself in agreement that society places too much of a taboo on death, forcing people to tiptoe around the subject, and to never confront ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Brilliant read, fascinating and funny!
Clare Holman-Hobbs
This was so interesting! And for someone who is a bit squeamish, it wasn't that bad. I might have skimmed a few paragraphs but on the whole, it was great!
Rach Chippendale
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Utterly fascinating. Best bio I've read in the last 2 years. Far from "gruesome", this is a story of hard work, humanity and Love.
Jacqui Hale
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book. Don't read it while you're eating lunch!
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I picked up this book in Waterstones I was expecting more reminiscences of post mortems that had occurred throughout the authors time working as an APT. Although I enjoyed the book, I felt that the chapters revolved around the same couple of stories, one from each place worked. Despite this I would recommend the book as a good read. It was also quite informative regarding the role the author held and others that were held by people mentioned in the book, I most certainly fall under the titl ...more
Oct 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I wish I liked this book more than I did. As someone who has read a few books about rituals and practices surrounding death, I didn't really find out anything new, but I'm sure it would be interesting to someone newly interested in the topic.

Unfortunately, the whole text read more as an autobiography than an informative book about "life & death behind mortuary doors." While the author is clearly incredibly passionate and determined, both qualities I love, I was put off by her disgust of fat
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it made me think about my own mortality (as well as Eva's mortality!) and the people I've lost... Especially chapter 7, Abdominal Block: Pickled Punks.
Really well written covering a variety of aspects surrounding death, dying and what happens afterwards.
Carla writes about her post-mortems in such an open, factual yet personal and reassuring manner. I felt like we were both sat in our own little world and she was reading the book to me, this might sound a bit odd
Eli Claire
"From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity." - Edvard Munch

This book was such a fascinating look at the death industry and the work of APTs, and shed light on the differences in death procedures between the U.K. and the U.S. I loved hearing Carla's stories about her work in different mortuaries, and the respectful and thoughtful way she talked about religion and spirituality in the context of death. Some of the chapters felt a bit disjointed and out of order,
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