Saturday, 16 May 2015

AN EXPERIMENT IN LOVE by Hilary Mantel

From one novel about a university scholarship to another, from one grim 60s childhood to the next. Even the introduction notes how similar this book is to JERUSALEM THE GOLDEN, so it’s bizarre I read them back to back by sheer chance.

Hilary Mantel is by far the most diverse writer I’ve ever come across. From her lengthy Booker Prize winning history novels of Henry VIII (WOLF HALL and its sequels) to A CHANGE OF CLIMATE, a short contemporary story of child abuse in Africa, to A PLACE OF GREATER SAFETY, a story of the French Revolution, her content veers wildly around.

AN EXPERIMENT IN LOVE is a story of anorexia, before it had a real name. It’s weird to see this girl who is at university wonder what’s wrong with her: you just want to scream: GO TO THE HEALTH CENTRE YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE AN EATING DISORDER. The book ends with in a fire in the dormitory, which kills one of the heroine’s friends, and for some reason also cures her of her anorexia. It sounds climactic, and yet somehow it was mostly anti-climactic. I’ve never been so bored by a fire/murder.

So not one of my favourite of her weird array of novels. Though sometimes you see the Mantel gold shining through; as this, on her miserable childhood, which I’ll leave you with:
Perhaps I should regret my misspent youth, pity myself for having so little fun. But carpe diem is an empty sentiment, now that we all live so long.
That's fridge magnet material right there.

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