Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found is Frances Larson’s study of severed heads throughout history. As soon as I saw the book’s cover, there was little doubt that I would purchase Severed that very day.
Severed is one of those niche books that I instantly realized would be a fascinating read. I love history, and strange history is often the most entertaining. The concept of an entire book about the history of severed heads is so brilliant that I am jealous that I did not think of the idea myself!
Frances Larson effectively mixes readability with the occasional darkly humorous comment with factual subject matter to produce a history book that is both entertaining and satisfying in an intellectual sense. Each chapter focuses on a different type of severed head, ranging from shrunken heads to the heads of deposed monarchs, and provides plenty of stories that are stranger than fiction. For example, I did not know that soldiers during WWII took heads as trophies, but the practice was alive and well in the Pacific theater.
From the excellent cover to the illustration of Oliver Cromwell’s head that graces the prologue chapter, there are plenty of pictures that depict severed heads and skulls, so this book is definitely not for the faint of heart. The pictures are not overly gruesome or gratuitous, but the fact remains that the book is about severed heads, so some readers may be turned off by the very idea.
I highly recommend Severed for any history buff, but even if history books are not normally your preference Severed could still be a very worthwhile read. Anyone who is interested in unusual topics that are shocking and true should not pass up the opportunity to read Severed.