Essays · History · Julia P · Non-Fiction

The Mansion of Happiness | by Jill Lepore

The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death by Jill Lepore
(Knopf, 2012, 282 pages)

The Mansion of Happiness was different than I expected it to be. Essentially Lepore, a historian at Harvard, looks at the way the cycle of life and death has been interpreted and understood historically. We are taken through how conception and the beginning of life was first understood to how adolescence emerged as a new stage of life. Ideas about when old age began and notions about death also changed considerably. This book was incredibly interesting from a historical perspective and I learned a lot while I was reading it. Each chapter could easily stand on its own, and a number of the chapters were actually published originally in The New Yorker (where Lepore is also a staff writer).

This was a little harder to sit down and read straight through because I felt like I needed to pay closer attention since there was so much information included, but I definitely feel more informed now that I’m done ;). If you’re interested in a unique perspective on how our understandings of the cycle of life (or is it better understood as a linear path?) have changed over time, you’ll appreciate The Mansion of Happiness. This is also an interesting read if you’re simply in to history.

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