Giving up the Ghost

Hilary Mantel

“Giving Up the Ghost” is award-winning novelist Hilary Mantel’s wry, shocking and beautifully written autobiography.

It opens in 1995 with ‘A Second Home’, in which Mantel describes the death of her stepfather, a death which leaves her deeply troubled by the unresolved events of childhood. ‘Now Geoffrey Don’t Torment Her’ begins in typical, gripping Mantel fashion: ‘Two of my relatives have died by fire.’ Set during the 1950s, it takes the reader into the muffled consciousness of her early childhood, culminating with the birth of a younger brother and the strange candlelit ceremony of her mother’s ‘churching’. Mantel then moves to a haunted house and mysteriously gains a stepfather. When she is almost eleven, her family flee the gossips and the ghosts, and resolve to start a new life. Teenage perplexity displaces childhood dreams of Arthurian knights as her home turns into a place where the keeping of secrets has become a way of life. Convent school provides a certain sanctuary, with tacit assistance from the fearsome ‘Top Nun’. After making good her escape to university and her own marriage, the author reveals how, through medical misunderstandings and neglect, she came to be childless, and how the ghosts of the unborn, like chances missed or pages unturned, have come to haunt her life as a writer.

Reviews of Giving up the Ghost

  • ‘Hilary Mantel’s self-portrait is a masterpiece of wit, but it conjures up a time and a place and an epoch of female experience with razor-edged sobriety. That past, so thoroughly vanished, is made to live again here – disclosed, cannily and heartbreakingly, as once it too yielded up its author’s mind.’ Rachel Cusk

    ‘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

    ‘What a remarkable writer she is. She is piercingly, even laceratingly observant, and every remembered detail has the sharpness of a good photograph. It’s a very startling and daring memoir; the more I read it the more unsettling it becomes.’ Helen Dunmore

    ‘I was riveted. It’s raw, it’s distressing and it’s full of piercing insights into a first-rate novelist’s mind.’ Margaret Forster

    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

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