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Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir
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About the Author

Hilary Mantel is the bestselling author of many novels including Wolf Hall, which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Bring Up the Bodies, Book Two of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, was also awarded the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Award. She is also the author of A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, An Experiment in Love, The Giant, O'Brien, Fludd, Beyond Black, Every Day Is Mother's Day, and Vacant Possession. She has also written a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Mantel was the winner of the Hawthornden Prize, and her reviews and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books. She lives in England with her husband.

Reviews

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.

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.

"Dazzlingly written...a highly unorthodox account of what is essentially unsayable about the inward uncharted life." --Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books"The matter is bitter, but Mantel's angular wit is as unquenchable as her anger; the reading experience is reliably exhilarating because of the sheer excellence of the writing." --New York Times Book Review"Blazing insights [and] poetic discourses that rattle the soul...Mantel doesn't simply hit close to home, she knocks at our closets and opens our doors." --The Boston Globe"Mantel's talents are stronger than her misfortunes...[this book comes] from the mind of a fine author, whose body has imposed its own terrible penances." --The Washington Post

"Giving Up the Ghost combines the urgency and observation that steer a memoir into the heart of a reader's own experience. I have been touched and also enthralled by this fine book." --Carol Shields, author of The Stone Diaries and Unless"A 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, author of Beloved Stranger

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