Performance and Purpose in Dying and Death – C K Hogan

Published By: Free Association Books
Released On: 30/11/2022

This book addresses the dying process and the nature of death itself with the intention that it might help us to accept and embrace both these things as a part of life. Intended to provide a shift in perception, this book aims to alleviate some of the fear, resistance and denial surrounding death.

Much has been written about death by spiritual teachers, psychologists, philosophers and palliative specialists, but this book 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 principle belief is that the tools required for this shift in perception are to be found within us – we already possess what we need that would allow us to drop the heavy weight of fear and anxiety. This book will help the reader to find these tools, guiding the reader towards their own, most direct route, and focuses on the validity of individual experience.


Thanks to Literally PR and Free Association Books for the gifted copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I was on the fence with this book for a lot of the time. I found a lot of positives but also a few negatives.

What I really liked is how this book is written by a ‘general’ person, not a Doctor or a nurse or a scientist or a death doula or a specialist or religious leader. She is just someone writing about death. Which is important. Because when we lose someone, no matter who we are or what our job is, we don’t lose someone as a Doctor or a nurse or a religious leader etc. we lose someone as a parent or a child or a sibling or a friend.

It is quite blunt and to the point. Death is upsetting and stressful and doesn’t make for nice discussion or thinking about. But there’s nothing anyone can do about it. We can get plastic surgery and things injected into us, we can eat well, take supplements and exercise to stave off old age. But we all still die. And that’s brutal. Clare Hogan doesn’t sugar coat things. It’s a scary concept, but one we must all face. And I like that she’s done that. She isn’t patronising and she doesn’t talk down to the reader. She is aware of her topic and how it may make readers feel but she treats them as an equal.

I’ve said in other related reviews that I have experienced a lot of death recently. Since 2015, I have lost 2 uncles, 4 aunts, my dad, my nan, a good family friend and a childhood friend. That’s a lot in such a short space of time, and I’ve become friends with death. I’ve become used to it. It doesn’t hold the same fear for me as it once did. But I’m aware that some people who have luckily not had to experience death may find it difficult to read and may find it too frightening to talk about. So I think this book will definitely help those who are strangers to death.

In my opinion, this book is more about the idea of death, the thoughts of death, the “purpose” of death, the unconscious link between a live body and a spirit, rather than actually about the physical process of dying. There are pros and cons about this. It gives a unique look at the idea of your soul or your spirit living on after your body dies. But then I was kind of hoping for more on the physical “performance” of dying.

One thing that I didn’t particularly like was the amount of external quotes used. There’s a lot of quotes and writings from other people, artists, doctors, scientists, philosophers etc. and whilst I did find these interesting, I found there were just too many of them and it affected the flow for me. Because of this, I didn’t find it quite as down-to-earth as I was expecting. When I read she wasn’t writing as a Doctor or an expert I hope it would be easier to read and a bit more relaxed, but it lost that feel for me somewhere along the way. Whilst it wasn’t written by a specialist, it was still quite meaty to get through. Having said that, bringing in all these quotes and whatnot might be a plus for some readers as it feels more grounded, so it’s definitely a personal choice.

It’s split into a number of sections: Denial, Perception, Law, Breath, and Purpose. Like most chaptered books, some I preferred more than others. I found the Denial section a bit hard to get through, but then I really enjoyed the Perception section, and particularly the Purpose section. Like anything, we all enjoy certain things more than others, and I felt a real connection to the idea of Perception. It’s an interesting way of setting out the story rather than just basic numbered chapters.

There are some bits, some analogies that I didn’t really understand in relation to death, dying and grief. That’s not to say they’re bad, they just threw me a bit. I’m aware that for some readers, this will provide an alternative way of thinking about death and I think it’s important to present a multitude of concepts and ideas. So whilst they didn’t sit comfortably with me, I could appreciate the range of thoughts.

There are some points that just seemed a bit random. I’m sure she has her reasons for including them, but I found myself a bit confused a few times as to what it had to do with death and dying.

Having said all that, I found this book really interesting. There’s things I hadn’t considered, even when experiencing vast quantities of loss, and it’s quite educational on a number of topics.

The thing about books about death is that we can never be 100% certain as to what happens when we die and when we are dead, and that’s a positive and a negative for books like this. It gives us a chance to explore our imagination and theories, but it also prevents us reaching a satisfying conclusion. But until we get the ability to know what happens prior to our death, this will always be hanging over us.

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