Learning to Talk

Hilary Mantel

This sharp, funny collection of stories drawn from life begins in the 1950s in an insular northern village ‘scoured by bitter winds and rough gossip tongues.’ For the child narrator, the only way to survive is to get up, get on, get out. In ‘King Billy is a Gentleman’, the child must come to terms with the loss of a father and the puzzle of a fading Irish heritage. ‘Curved Is the Line of Beauty’ is a story of friendship, faith and a near-disaster in a scrap-yard. The title story sees our narrator ironing out her northern vowels with the help of an ex-actress with one lung and a Manchester accent. In ‘Third Floor Rising’, she watches, dazzled, as her mother carves out a stylish new identity. With a deceptively light touch, Mantel locates the transforming moments of a haunted childhood.

Reviews of Learning to Talk

  • ‘Mercilessly funny’ Daily Telegraph

    ‘Mantel writes with wit, compassion and great elegance.’ Independent on Sunday

    On ‘Giving Up the Ghost’:

    ‘Like Lorna Sage’s BAD BLOOD, GIVING UP THE GHOST is a story of childhood that is also a piece of history. 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

    ‘What a remarkable writer she is. She is piercingly, even laceratingly observant, and every remembered detail has the sharpness of a good photograph. And yet for all its brilliance of detail and its black comedy the memoir is heavy with atmophere. 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 novelist’s mind.’ Margaret Forster

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