Life before birth and after death: The Mansion of Happiness explores all

Jun 13, 2012

Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote, ‘nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’. But in her new book historian, Harvard professor and New Yorker columnist, Jill Lepore explores our purpose on the planet beyond payments to Uncle Sam and our descent to the grave.

The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death draws on centuries of American views on the many stages of life; from what happens before birth to breast pumps, cryogenics and our fascination with the afterlife. Excited by childhood and intrigued by death, Lepore says we no longer look for answers relating to our existence from the past, but glance ahead to the future.

What is the most compelling stage of life? What questions do you have about life after death? Within your own family, what conversations do you have about old age and death?


Jill Lepore, David Woods Kemper ‘41Professor of American History at Harvard University and author of The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death

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