Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Review of Giving Up the Ghost

Giving Up the GhostGiving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mantel's is the kind of writing which leaves you thinking why bother with your own scribbles. She is so good.  The ghost of her stepfather flickers on the first page, then a hundred pages in we are alerted to the apparition seen in the garden at the age of six or seven; this is the ghost which haunts the rest of her memoir: "I am writing in order to take charge of the story of my childhood and my childlessness; and in order to locate myself, in not within a body, then in the narrow space between one letter and the next, between the lines where the ghosts of meaning are." She remembers the people she knew including her family and her "best friend" who was mean to her,  the Catholicism of her early years, her confused little person thoughts, games played by name and the size, color and story of many classic books. She recalls every place she has lived and the pains of marital breakups and moving. She writes about her grueling medical history with just enough detachment and wit that you can keep reading and marvel at her metaphors:  "I have been so mauled by medical procedures, so sabotaged and made over, so thin and so fat, that sometimes I feel that each morning it is necessary to write myself into being..." And after a diagnosis finally arrives. "I am a shabby old building in an area of heavy shelling, which the inhabitants have vacated years ago." Her descriptions can be reread over and over: On their first marital lodgings: "We couldn't get the stately family wardrobe upstairs, so it stayed down, its fine mirror reflecting the flickering of the silverfish as they busied cheerfully about their lives." It is the work of a master writer.

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