Thursday, August 22, 2013

Giving Up the Ghost-Hilary Mantel

Giving Up the Ghost-Hilary Mantel

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 252
gender: F
nationality: UK (England)
year: 2003
non-fiction, Memoir

 In postwar rural England, Hilary Mantel grew up convinced that the most improbable of accomplishments, including "chivalry, horsemanship, and swordplay," were within her grasp. Once married, however, she acquired a persistent pain that led to destructive drugs and patronizing psychiatry, ending in an ineffective but irrevocable surgery. There would be no children; in herself she found instead one novel, and then another.

Well, I really didn't expect that. I have to admit, this is my first Mantel read and so I knew nothing about her. I had no idea she has chronic health problems or grew up in Derbyshire or found hints for her novels in her own life. Often times in memoirs of people you don't know, you get a feeling of a presentation. This is what you'd expect of the generic writer, basketball player, or comedian. I felt none of that here. This is Mantel, telling you about the strange things in her life that have contributed to being her. It's not the events themselves (she refuses to tell you some of them) but the way she explores her reactions to them and how they've impacted her life. The title gives you a sense of what her tone is like. She regards things with a grim humor that verges on melancholic. This is her coming to grips with the ghost of what she could have become and such it is a not a smooth journey full of facts. There are jumps in time, blurry recollections, and self referential tangents and above all it is centred squared on Hilary Mantel-not her family, friends, lovers, or writing. I really enjoyed the writing itself-great musings and turns of phrase really showcase her skill even as she bares her insecurities to her own razor sharp analysis.

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