Review: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

Title: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: and Other Lessons from the Crematorium

Author: Caitlin Doughty

Published: Canongate: Allen & Unwin May 2015

Status: Read from May 27 to 28, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

I’ve already informed my family that when I die I want what is left of my body (I’m a registered organ donor) to be delivered directly to the crematorium – there is to be no coffin, no viewing, no funeral service, and afterwards they are welcome to do whatever they like with my ashes, whether that be keep them, scatter them or inter them in a wall. To me this seem practical, and is as much thought as I have given to the inevitably of my death.

Few people like to dwell on the fate of their ‘mortal coil’, but Caitlin Doughty has always had a morbid fascination with death, reinforced when, as a child, she witnessed a toddler plunge three stories to her death in a shopping mall. At twenty three, with a degree in Medieval Studies, she secured a job as a crematory operator at Westwind Cremation and Burial, confronting her curiousity and concerns head on.

In Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Doughty blends the tales of her experiences at Westwind, and later as a licensed mortician, with a brief historical and cultural overview of death rituals, and her philosophical musings. She feels strongly that modern day western society is too removed from the processes of death and is an advocate for ‘death awareness’ – working to redefine culture’s relationship to mortality, grief, and death customs. To this end she co founded The Order of the Good Death and hosts a YouTube series called Ask a Mortician, and the thrust of this book asks the reader to consider their end of life choices, before it is too late.

I applaud Doughty for attempting to engage the interest of a squeamish mainstream. Written with humour, respect and real passion for her subject, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is an informative and thought provoking read.

“Death drives every creative and destructive impulse we have as human beings. The closer we come to understanding it, the closer we come to understanding ourselves.”

Available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

BookDepository  I Amazon US I Indiebound

and all good bookstores.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cleopatralovesbooks
    May 31, 2015 @ 21:32:00

    Well that wasn’t what I imagined from the title, although on reflection very apt. This definitely isn’t one for me but thank you for a great review.



  2. MarthaE
    Jun 02, 2015 @ 12:17:32

    I didn’t expect this either. Sounds interesting though! Thanks for sharing.



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