26.6.09

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel


Beyond Black was recommended to me by the lovely Kim at Still Reading and I'm so glad that she did as I have really enjoyed this book. I'll give you the blurb:

Alison Hart, a medium by trade, tours the dormitory towns of London's orbital road with her flint-hearted sidekick Colette, passing on messages from dead ancestors. But behind her plump, smiling persona is a desperate woman: the next life holds terrors that she must conceal from her clients, and her own waking hours are plagued by the spirits of men from her past. They infiltrate her house, her body and her soul, and the more she tries to be rid of them, the stronger and nastier they become...


I loved the character of Alison Hart; she is completely believable unlike some of the more sinister characters in this book. Through the taped interviews with Colette we gain an insight into her truly awful childhood with her prostitute mother in Aldershot. The reader is often left to make up their own mind about the events of Alison's childhood as the facts are not always explicit; in some ways this makes it worse as your imagination is allowed to wander. Alison's sidekick is Colette; in some ways she is an extremely sad figure who has been unlucky in love and life but also you can see her drive and ambition as she attempts to reinvigorate and nurture Alison's career. Morris, Alison's spiritual companion is a really vile creation. He is a lecherous, foul mouthed old man who taunts Alison at all hours of the day and night.
I really enjoyed this book and I loved how Hilary Mantel took quite an ordinary topic and created such a fantastic story and characters. The book is very dialogue led and Mantel pulls this off really well, I often felt like I was sitting there observing the conversation between Alison and Colette or Alison and her clients. I felt that Mantel really captured the oppressive nature of Alison's life; she never has any peace, the spirits plague her at all hours and this highlights just how important and vital Colette's friendship is to her.
This is the first Hilary Mantel book that I have ever read and I will definitely be seeking out her other ones. She is an extremely intelligent writer; she is telling an incredibly sad story but manages to do so with brilliant wit and her observations of human behavior are spot on.

8 comments:

Nicole said...

This sounds really good. I'm usually very leery of dialogue driven books because I feel like it's so hard to get good dialogue. Glad you enjoyed this one.

Dot said...

Nicole- thank you! I know what you mean about dialogue, this one was really natural though, I really enjoyed it!

Kim said...

So glad you enjoyed this book, it really is well written and the story throws up all kinds of questions.
I absolutely agree with you that the missing pieces from Alison's childhood recollections make the story even more terrifying. I was also spellbound by the fact that Alison has no peace in her life, even in her own mind which, to me, is even more horrifying than what happened to her as a child.
The clarity of the characters and the story stayed with me for a long time after I had finished reading which is always the sign of a well written book!
Have a great weekend, Dot, and thanks for another excellent review!

Karen said...

I have this waiting on my pile to be read - really looking forward to it now!

Jo said...

This sounds really good. It's going on my list nd hopefully I'll read it soon.

Dot said...

Karen and Jo- Thank you, hope that you both enjoy reading it too!

Dot said...

Kim- thank you for the recommendation, I really enjoyed reading it!

verity said...

Am so pleased to have discovered your blog as you seem to like many similar books to me. I loved Beyond Black and also discovered Hilary Mantel this year - I wrote about her here: http://cardigangirlverity.blogspot.com/2009/06/hilary-mantel.html

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