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Giving up the Ghost: A memoir


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About the Author

Hilary Mantel was born in Derbyshire. She was educated at a convent and later studied law. After ten years abroad in Africa and the Middle East, she returned to Britain in 1985 to make a career as a writer. She is working on her ninth novel.


In this memoir, Mantel (A Change of Climate) provokes myriad emotions in readers as she tells of her life growing up in England after World War II. Her early years revolved around her mother, various stepfathers, and her Catholic schools. She looks back on her education with a combination of pathos and hilarity, at one point saying, "I was both too old and too young for the place I had arrived at. My best days were behind me." She found refuge in books, which soothed the dreariness of her school and home life. In her late teens, she moved to London for law school and then to Sheffield, where she married. It is at this point that her memoir takes an abrupt turn. She developed a persistent pain that would, over the next ten years, lead to a diagnosis of endometriosis, then to surgery, which rendered her unable to have children. The subsequent hormonal treatments left her unrecognizable to herself. Yet, as horrendous as this is, Mantel tempers her experiences with humor and profound insight. Writing, it seems, is the balm that enabled her to move beyond her circumstances. This is a moving and unforgettable memoir that will touch all who read it. For all collections.-Ron Ratliff, Kansas State Univ. Lib., Manhattan Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

'Like Lorna Sage's BAD BLOOD, GIVING UP THE GHOST is a story of childhood that is also a piece of history. Hilary Mantel's self-portrait is a masterpiece of wit, but it conjures up a time and a place and an epoch of female experience with razor-edged sobriety. That past, so thoroughly vanished, is made to live again here -- disclosed, cannily and heartbreakingly, as once it too yielded up its author's mind.' Rachel Cusk'What a remarkable writer she is. She is piercingly, even laceratingly observant, and every remembered detail has the sharpness of a good photograph. And yet for all its brilliance of detail and its black comedy the memoir is heavy with atmophere. It's a very startling and daring memoir; the more I read it the more unsettling it becomes.' Helen Dunmore'I was riveted. It's raw, it's distressing and it's full of piercing insights into a first-rate novelist's mind.' Margaret ForsterA stunning evocation of an ill-fitting childhood and a womanhood blighted by medical ineptitude. Hilary Mantel's frank and beautiful memoir is impossible to put down and impossible to forget. Clare Boylan

As she approaches midlife, Mantel applies her beautiful prose and expansive vocabulary to a somewhat meandering memoir. The English author of eight novels (The Giant, O'Brien; Eight Months on Ghazzah Street; etc.) is "writing in order to take charge of the story of my childhood and my childlessness; and in order to locate myself... between the lines where the ghosts of meaning are." Among the book's themes are ghosts and illness, both of which Mantel has much experience with. She expends many pages on her earliest years, and then on medical treatments in her 20s, but skips other decades almost entirely as she brings readers up to the present. At age seven she senses a horrifying creature in the garden, which as a Catholic she concludes is the devil; later, houses she lives in have "minor poltergeists." The first and foremost ghost, though, is the baby she will never have. By 20, Mantel is in constant pain from endometriosis, and at 27, after years of misdiagnosis and botched treatment, she has an operation that ends her fertility. Her pains come back, she has thyroid problems and drug treatments cause her body to balloon; she describes these ordeals with remarkably wry detachment. Fans of Mantel's critically acclaimed novels may enjoy the memoir as insight into her world. Often, though, all the fine detail that in another work would flesh out a plot-such as embroidery silk "the scarlet shade of the tip of butterflies' wings"-has nowhere to go. (Oct. 8) Forecast: Although this won't win Mantel new readers-though beautifully written, it lacks a coherent story line-fans of Eight Months on Ghazzah Street and A Change of Climate, which were very well received, may want to pick this up. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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