Monday, 31 December 2012

A CHANGE OF CLIMATE by Hilary Mantel

I just finished another Mantel, the Booker winning BRING UP THE BODIES, a highly poetic historical novel. This book couldn’t be more different – in fact it seems to have been written by a totally different person. It’s a contemporary story about a personal drama.

A young man is essentially forced by his father to become a missionary. His father in incensed by his son’s desire to study geology, as he is fiercely opposed to evolution. The young man does not ask for support from anyone, and eventually surrenders:
Because he was ashamed of his father’s stupidity, ashamed of the terms of the quarrel. Because in families, you never think of appealing for help to the outside world; your quarrels are too particular, too specific, too complex. And because you never think of these reasonable solutions, till it is far too late.

An interesting analysis of family life. In Africa, where they go as missionaries, the young man and his wife experience a horrific life changing event. The author is British, so no surprises as to what the event is: oh yes, it’s child abuse. Of course. The British are completely obsessed with paedophilia.

The book flashes back and forth between past and future, and while always engaging, because Mantel is a fine writer, it never quite reaches a satisfying completion or resolution. There is however this great line, which I rather treasure:
Again he twitched at his belt, settling his bulk comfortably, as if his gut were something apart from him, a pet animal he kept.
I know many people keeping that kind of pet.

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