Thursday 13 November 2014

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher : Stories by Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel is one of Britain’s most accomplished and acclaimed writers. In these ten bracingly subversive tales, all her gifts of characterisation and observation are fully engaged, summoning forth the horrors so often concealed behind everyday façades. Childhood cruelty is played out behind the bushes in ‘Comma’; nurses clash in ‘Harley Street’ over something more than professional differences; and in the title story, staying in for the plumber turns into an ambiguous and potentially deadly waiting game.
Whether set in a claustrophobic Saudi Arabian flat or on a precarious mountain road in Greece, these stories share an insight into the darkest recesses of the spirit. Displaying all of Mantel’s unmistakable style and wit, they reveal a great writer at the peak of her powers.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is a collection of short stories by Hilary Mantel and was published by Fourth Estate on 25 September 2014.  There are ten stories in total, written between 1993 and 2014 and all have been previously published elsewhere; in newspapers, magazines and other short story collections.

I put my hands up and admit that I bought this book because of the title! I'm not a fan of Hilary Mantel's writing despite the fact that she's won the Man Booker Prize twice, I tried with Wolf Hall, I really did, but I failed miserably. I also sometimes struggle with short stories and often feel let down by them, so all praise to the publisher who chose the title story, it intrigued me enough to buy the book.

I'm afraid I'm still not a convert - not to Hilary Mantel's writing, nor to short stories - but I did read them all, and although I can't say that I actually enjoyed this collection, I can appreciate the absolute brilliance in her writing.

Each story is led by a female character, and each of these women are waspish and somewhat venomous, there is a harshness to the characters that flavours all of the stories. Hilary Mantel excels in creating a setting that the reader can almost feel, smell and see; from the grubby back street guest house to the dusty roads of a Greek island. Mantel's skill in creating these places and allowing the reader to become part of them is so very skilful.

The fairly horrible characters and the fabulous sense of place aside, I was left feeling a little underwhelmed by these stories. They just end, suddenly, and although I'm not a reader who demands that all the endings in stories are tied up neatly, in fact I am partial to an ambiguous ending, these stories left me feeling a little bit empty and wondering if I'm more than a little bit stupid! There are reviewers and critics who have raved about this collection, and I guess the title and the author herself are both great discussion points.  Not for me though, I really don't have a lot to add to the debate, all I can really say is that I've read them!

Hilary Mantel is the author of thirteen books , including A Place of Greater Safety, Beyond Black, and the memoir Giving up the Ghost. 

Her two most recent novels, Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring up the Bodies have both been awarded The Man Booker Prize - an unprecedented achievement.

For more information visit the author's website and her Facebook Author page

1 comment:

  1. Anne, have you read Every Day is Mothers Day? Mantel's first, and I've just discovered it. It's weird and brilliant!