New York Times bestselling author Hilary Mantel, two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize, is one of the world’s most accomplished and acclaimed fiction writers. Giving Up the Ghost, is her dazzling memoir of a career blighted by physical pain in which her singular imagination supplied compensation for the life her body was denied.
Selected by the New York Times as one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years
“The story of my own childhood is a complicated sentence that I am always trying to finish, to finish and put behind me.”
In postwar rural England, Hilary Mantel grew up convinced that the most extraordinary feats were within her grasp. But at nineteen, she became ill. Through years of misdiagnosis, she suffered patronizing psychiatric treatment and destructive surgery that left her without hope of children.
Beset by pain and sadness, she decided to “write herself into being”—one novel after another. This wry and visceral memoir will certainly bring new converts to Mantel’s dark genius.
“Mesmerizing.”—The New York Times
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
The first half of the book,her childhood and the second half, her adulthood, go into repetative detail about her various lifelong illnesses.