Review: Raising the Dead

‘Raising the Dead’ – another gem found in the clearance pile. I read it in a day and by the end I was in tears. Written by Phillip Finch, ‘Raising the Dead’ recounts a deep-cave diving expedition gone wrong. The title summarises their mission – to recover the long-lost body of a fellow diver and return it home.

While many divers are involved, Finch focuses on the two who went the deepest, the two who ended up with their lives hanging in the balance – Don Shirley and Dave Shaw – one of whom did not make it out alive. This allows the reader to grow closer to the two men and feel their plight more strongly. Alongside this connection, the true nature of the book only makes the outcome even more heart-breaking.

The first few chapters bring the reader into the main story – showing the discovery of the body and the beginning of the actual dive, before cutting to back story. This backstory includes introductions to the other divers as well as recounting the history of Shirley and Shaw: why they started diving, where they have dived and their families. As a result, they are present as the real people they are rather than just characters in a book. Finch also goes into detail about techniques and equipment used in deep-cave diving. While this can be a little tedious at times, it does set up for the outcome, allowing the reader to understand what really happened.

The second part of the book is where the main action happens. The recover dive is gripping. Finch slowly puts together the perspective of all those involved, so that the fullest representation of the dive is presented. He then reveals the causes of each disaster in a way that is easy to understand but also shows how it all added up to create such an outcome. The reactions of the families and divers at the end of the book really strike a chord, particularly the wife of the diver who lost his life under the water.

If you are interested in diving, or even if you are not, I really recommend you read this book. The only think that really annoyed me was the reiteration of the phrase ‘that’s diving’ constantly throughout the narrative. Other than that it is informative, emotional and a book that is hard to put down.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars



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