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  • Published: 6 February 2020
  • ISBN: 9781448182442
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

These Silent Mansions

A life in graveyards




A poetic examination of our abiding fascination for cemeteries

Graveyards are oases: places of escape, of peace and reflection. Each is a garden or nature reserve, but also a site of commemoration, where the past is close enough to touch: a liminal place, at the border of the living world.

Jean Sprackland's prize-winning book, Strands, brought to life the histories of objects found on a beach. These Silent Mansions is also an uncovering of individual stories: vivid, touching and intimately told. Sprackland travels back through her own life, revisiting graveyards in the ordinary towns and cities she has called home, seeking out others who lived, died and are remembered or forgotten there. With her poet's eye, she makes chance discoveries among the stones and inscriptions: a notorious smuggler tucked up in a sleepy churchyard; ancient coins unearthed on a secret burial ground; a slow-worm basking in the sun.

These Silent Mansions is an elegant, exhilarating meditation on the relationship between the living and the dead, the nature of time and loss, and how - in this restless, accelerated world - we can connect the here with the elsewhere, the present with the past.

  • Published: 6 February 2020
  • ISBN: 9781448182442
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

About the author

Jean Sprackland

Jean Sprackland is the author of four previous poetry collections, including Tilt, which won the 2007 Costa Poetry Award. She has also published a book of non-fiction, Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach, which won the 2012 Portico Prize. She lives in London.

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Praise for These Silent Mansions

A wide-ranging, unpredictable and refreshingly original meditation on a huge but widely ignored subject: the relationship between the living and the dead… Exhilarating… This is a lovely book: beautifully written, never lapsing into self-conscious ‘poet’s prose’, always a joy to read. I wish I had written it myself.

Nigel Andrew, Literary Review

Cemetery tales, filled with fascinating details and told with a poet’s skillDelightfully morbid… Sprackland roves about history, language, biology, architecture, entomology, iconography and much else in her quest for meaning… [and] the astonishing twist…should justify your reading These Silent Mansions in its entirety.

Anthony Quinn, Guardian

Shot through with delightful digressionsThere is a spare beauty to Sprackland’s proseThese Silent Mansions is a strange and mercurial book; hard to pin down, but even harder to forget.

Lucy Scholes

Sprackland has the poet’s knack for atmosphere and a magician’s ability to conjure up other worlds. She is like a ghostly time traveller… Sprackland is particularly agile, though, at exploring the ways in which a graveyard reflects its community and how, with modern life, we are losing this sense of connection.

Ann Treneman, The Times

Part social history, part personal meditation and wholly enchanting - as attentive to local and moving details as it is to the fact of mortality itself.

Andrew Motion

Award-winning poet Sprackland takes a wonderfully wistful tour of her favourite cemeteries... A fascinating read.

Eithne Farry, Sunday Express

To opened ground and graven stone Jean Sprackland brings a poet’s scrutiny and the archivist’s insatiable curiosity. She disinters the humanity buried in the humus; and how, as fungus and algae make the lichen bloom, the living and the dead must share the several geographies of time and memory, identity and story. These Silent Mansions, like silence “beyond silence listened for”, rings remarkable and true.

Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking

A deeply pleasurable blend of poetic anthropology… Against the inevitable forces of erasure, this small book serves as an act of defiance.

Claire Allfree, Evening Standard

Each of these stories is told with Sprackland’s keen eye for detail... It is beautifully written as I have come to expect with all of her books, she has immensely powerful prose.

Paul Cheney

Part memoir, part nature study and part social history, Sprackland returns in this sensitive and unusual book to the graveyards of the towns and villages where she has lived… [Sprackland] connects us to the forgotten lives of those whose names, like Ebenezer and Chastity, are now eaten by moss and lichen…[and] discovers the tales…[of] collective history.

Frances Wilson, Mail on Sunday

This gentle journey around England’s graveyards is anything but morbid. Jean Sprackland, who is also an award-winning poet, is less interested in death than in the stories that the departed have left behind: the lives and deeds remembered in stone and the way that churchyards help us situate ourselves in time and space… Wise, compassionate and involving.

Stephanie Cross, Lady

Sprackland gets her bearings from graveyards. She does not really feel that she has touch down somewhere properly unless she has established more than a nodding acquaintance with the dead…in order to discover what part of her older self might have survived.

Michael Glover, Tablet

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