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  • Highly informative and not at all salacious

    If you are like me, you probably think books bound in human skin were made and owned by evil cults or serial killers but that could not be further from the truth. Gentlemen doctors and rare book collectors were the real “artists” behind these constructions. Rosenbloom takes a deep dive into the history of medicine to discover how the materials were harvested and the dissociative attitudes that allowed these doctors to see their patients as raw materials. If you are interested in the questionable practices of early medicine including grave robbing and body snatching this book will interest you. Contrary to what movies and fiction novels might have you believe; the donors of the skin were deceased before harvesting. The doctors had a convenient supply as their patients succumbed to the many diseases of the 18th and 19th centuries. This wasn’t done to keep some sick trophy but for financial purposes. The value of a book would skyrocket when bound in human skin. Collectors, both in the past and the present, value the rare and the controversial and human skin books fit the bill. Rosenbloom explores the mechanics of tanning and preparing animal hides to extrapolate how these processes might have worked with human skin. I found this section to be the most gruesome and graphic. As a fashion lover I am shocked that I never thought about suede and why it is textured. I learned something and I kind of wish I hadn’t! If you are curious suede is the underside of the hide/skin and it is fuzzy textured because it was connected to all the tissues and blood vessels inside the body. I found this incredibly disturbing. To take the horror one step further, there is one human skin book that is human suede. Human suede!!! I am not easily grossed out but that one has stuck with me. This book is not for the squeamish or faint of heart, although if you are intrigued by this book you are likely rather hardy and not easily grossed out. For the most part it was highly informative and not at all salacious. The identities of the “donors” of the skins are treated like the real people they were and not just the objects they became. Rosenbloom tells their stories with dignity and compassion. While I found the technical aspects of the books construction objectively interesting it is the stories of these “donors” that really had emotional impact. Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.

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  • Enthralling!

    Ms. Rosenbloom has the true storytelling of a librarian. Her ability to bring this subject to life and the deep research that she did is incredible! I honestly don't remember what my expectations were when I started this book, but Ms. Rosenbloom blew them away!

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