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By Lois Lowry

Thirteen-year-old Meg envies her sister's good looks and recognition. Her emotions don't make it any more uncomplicated for her to deal with Molly's unusual disorder and eventual dying.

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Little black dresses: Maybe we should consider bringing back mourning clothes, at least for the ladies. No, hear me out, for one thing you know you look good in black, it’s figure flattering after all, and for another it would save you the dreadful decision over what to wear for the next 12 months after hubby has died and hence the possible embarrassment of being branded the Merry Widow. Grave goods: I know some of you intend to sneak a little something into the coffin with you (though if you’re British the law requires that it be made of natural, combustible/biodegradable materials only).

There were some brains still at work after all. The 19th century was the great age of invention, so why not invent a coffin that warned if its contents were still fresh? Some of the thinking was not so technically hot though, such as the coffin with a spring-loaded lid, or another with an escape hatch. Which are only really useful before the burial. But, as the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. So they did and the ‘safety coffin’ spread throughout Europe and the US. In Germany alone there were 30 different designs.

Indd 32 20/9/06 11:30:53 am A Little Light History – Part II Once the departed was hairless, had had his photograph taken and a mask of his final features made, it was time to dress him up in his best suit, or her finest white robe and cap, and deposit him in his silver-plate-handled, blacklined coffin. Only then was it time for the living to get ready for the main event. Which brings us to rule three: funeral goers could wear any colour they liked as long as it was black. And that meant everything: black hair accessories, black umbrellas, black fans and purses, black dresses, hats, shawls, petticoats, black underwear, black lacy underwear, black see-through lacy underwear … Actually silk crêpe was the preferred mourning material, while furs, satin and silk were forbidden as too decadent for death.

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