Giving up the Ghost

Giving up the Ghost

A Memoir

Book - 2003
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In postwar rural England, Hilary Mantel is a fierce, self-possessed child, schooling herself in "chivalry, horsemanship, and swordplay" and convinced that she will become a boy at age four. Catholic school comes as a rude distraction from her rich inner life. At home, where fathers and stepfathers come and go at strange, overlapping intervals, the keeping of secrets becomes a way of life. Her late teens bring her to law school in London and then to Sheffield; a lover and then a husband. She acquires a persistent pain-which also shifts and travels-that over the next decade will subject her to destructive drugs, patronizing psychiatry, and, finally, at age twenty-seven, to an ineffective and irrevocable surgery. There will be no children; instead she has "a ghost of possibility, a paper baby, a person who slipped between the lines." Hormone treatments alter her body beyond recognition. And in the middle of it all, she begins one novel, and then another.

Hilary Mantel was born to write about the paradoxes that shimmer at the edges of our perception. Dazzling, wry, and visceral, Giving Up the Ghost is a deeply compelling book that will bring new converts to Mantel's dark genius.
Publisher: New York : Henry Holt, 2003
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780805074727
Characteristics: 223 p. ; 22 cm


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Nov 03, 2018

The voice of Hilary Mantel as a child is captivating. You read the words but feel the little life shaping and fighting and wondering why things are the way they are. The beginning hooks you in, as you wonder why she has to sell a home she love so much - that's the giving up the ghost of the title - leaving all her memories behind, especially memories of her step-father who is the "ghost."

I still don't completely understand why she has to give up the ghost. I had to move 47 times with my first husband and none of those moves had anything to do with ghosts, memories, or conscious decisions that weren't financial or work-related, or horrid circumstances, actually. So it's still weird to me that someone would move on and not really have a destination or practical motive. That's rich people for you?

Regardless, she's rich because she's one of the best writers alive. So good on you, Hilary Mantel. Do whatever it takes to tell us stories about what it was like to grow up so cold, so poor, so sick, so awfully sick actually. Share your situation and your story, your family, your pain, your explanation of why you chose the best bad decision out of all the available bad decision options. Enlighten the rest of the world about being so poor yet so brilliant in a gray, opportunity-less world. Explain your strength, surviving so close to death for so many years.

This is a memoir full of wisdom about her specific small childhood that blooms into grandly-themed, big picture, life lesson-type wisdom. And that's what incredible writing does: brings the little, close experience into a relatable learning experience, regardless of circumstance.

ser_library Jul 22, 2010

reflection rather than memoir, covering life with severe and chronic pain from undiagnosed endiometriosis.


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