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Book Review by Gillian Young and the girls 🐾

Today's book review: Performance and Purpose in Dying and Death by: C K Hogan

Reading in the forest with Gillian and the girls

Today, I'm reviewing Performance and Purpose in Dying and Death by C K Hogan. Thank you Literally PR and C K Hogan for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.

To quote the media sheet for the book, "There is no complex theory in this book, and no belief system required before reading. Everything is based on the author's experience - of delivering and facilitating death cafes in the UK and a lifetime's interest in psychology.


Having read this passage, I wondered what exactly a Death Cafe is, so, I did a little research, and this is what I found:

A Death Cafe is where people meet to talk about death, not in a morbid way, but to support, raise awareness and help others.

The concept originated from the swiss sociologist and anthropologist Bernard Crettaz. He formed the first Cafe Mortel in 2004. In 2011, web developer Jon Underwood took this idea and formed the Death Cafe. In an interview with The Times, Jon Underwood said,

"the aim of the café would be simply to make people feel relaxed about discussing death."

In the same article, Louise de Winter, a funeral planner who's also run death cafés in London and New York, organised the Bestival music festival on the Isle of Wight. There was also a death cafe set up at this event. What Louise de Winter said during this interview was interesting. Here's just a small excerpt.

“I think it’s very important that things like death cafés exist, so the public perception of death can change and more people become willing to embrace death as part of life,”

Since its formation back in Hackney in 2011, there are now Death Cafes in approximately 36 countries.

Since Jon Underwood's untimely death in 2017, the Death Cafe is now run by his sister, Jools Barksey and mother, Susan Barksey-Reid.


Clare Hogan

C K Hogan.

C K Hogan has lectured at the University of Salford on the Master’s programme ‘The Psychology of Performance’, which she created and has continued to develop over many years. She also facilitates Death Cafes and offers counselling on issues surrounding performance anxiety. Her book, The Alchemy of Performance Anxiety, was published by Free Association Books in 2018.

Book Blurb.

Performance and Purpose in Dying and Death addresses the dying process and the nature of death itself and aims to provide a shift in perception that might alleviate some of the fear, resistance and denial surrounding it.

Much has been written about death by spiritual teachers, psychologists, philosophers, and palliative specialists; this is an entry into the conversation from a viewpoint that is not medical, religious, nor postulating any form of belief system. It is partly a survey of our attitude and resistance to dying and death, and partly an examination of the options available that could serve as a non-denominational enquiry into this unavoidable eventuality. The principal tenet is that the tools required for this perceptual shift are to be found within each of us, that we already possess what is needed to allow us to drop the heavy weight of fear and anxiety. The reader is guided towards discovering these tools via their own most direct route, while always focusing on the validity of individual experience.

My Review.

This is a fascinating read and opened my mind to so many things. Some may think that the title sounds morbid but don’t be put off by this. The last thing I found this book to be was morbid. It was enlightening and educational. So many aspects of this book were helpful in maintaining healthy well-being and giving the reader eye-opening perspectives on life and death.

I like the way the book is broken down into chapters headed by an illustration which also features on the book cover. These chapters are Denial, Perception, Law, Breath and Purpose. The chapter, Breath, features practices I shall continue to use, enabling calm and control in difficult situations that inevitably life brings. I had no idea that the way we breathe could have such an effect on us. To quote C K Hogan: ‘Breathing through the nose rather than through the mouth improves how oxygen is distributed throughout the body and makes us calmer.’ Adapting the correct breathing technique can help to cope with anxiety, panic and stress. Who knew that breathing affects the communication between the heart and the brain, which in turn has a huge effect on mental clarity and emotional experience? – I didn’t until I read this book!

Breath is just one of five chapters – all as interesting and fascinating as the other. I could write more in-depth about the other chapters, but this review would be way too long!

My rating:


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