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Reading ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ in Whitebrook

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Old photo from July 2013, as I forgot to take a new one

The book: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Mantel

The place: Whitebrook, South Wales

It will come as no surprise that I adore Hilary Mantel and indeed revere her as semi-divine. However my primary allegiance is to her historical fiction – Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, obviously, but also (and possibly most enduringly) A Place of Greater Safety – and while I greatly admire her contemporary fiction (and memoir), I find it sufficiently different that it feels like a different author altogether. Mantel’s historical fiction is extraordinarily lush, thick with image and metaphor. When I read Wolf Hall (in Juba, late 2010) I described the experience in my journal as like dipping into a series of treasure chests; when I read Bring Up the Bodies (also in Juba, in 2012) it felt more like putting my hand into an immensely swift river. Mantel’s contemporary fiction, on the other hand, feels arid, barren and deeply unsettling (this isn’t a criticism; I mean this as a semi-synaesthetic impression). It seems to be set in a world that is hostile and alien and essentially frightening – whereas her historical fiction seems to recognise a world that is – for all its cruelty – profoundly beautiful.

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Written by Jess

December 2, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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