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Isabel then decides to go to an evening class where she meets married man Colin, who begins to fall for her quite hard whilst stuck in an unhappy marriage with his wife Sylvia. The main question is whether Muriel will ever get the help she desperately needs, and does she even want it? This is the strangest book I have read in a long time. It's sort of funny, but also it's very dark and the topics raised are a bit OTT. It felt like Mantel was given full reign to write the oddest story she's ever had a nightmare about and couldn't resist peppering it with nasty little moments for added crunch.

None of the characters are very nice, so it's almost impossible to warm to any of them.

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A weird first novel, so strange to think this is written by the same person who wrote Wolf Hall View 2 comments. Her 1st novel and it's excellent. The main character is Muriel Axon, a mentally handicapped shut-in who lives with her equally dysfunctional mother Isobel.

Despite the subject matter this is a surprisingly funny novel, the humour i Her 1st novel and it's excellent. Despite the subject matter this is a surprisingly funny novel, the humour is very British and decidedly dark. View all 3 comments. Jan 26, Karyn Wergland rated it it was ok.

All I can say is, don't read this when you're pregnant. You'll end up convinced that you've made a terrible mistake, that family life is a horror, that you are on a downward chute toward abject misery.


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As soon as you put down the book, you'll realize the author is presenting a one-sided view of that lifestyle. But while you're reading it, you'll feel like you're mucking about in a dirty toilet bowl. For this, I would give the book zero stars. Which may not be entirely fair, since Mantel's not re All I can say is, don't read this when you're pregnant.

Which may not be entirely fair, since Mantel's not responsible for when I chose to read her book. But even if I weren't huge with child, I will say that I prefer books written with warmth and heart. Perhaps this just wasn't a book for me. Also, there is a huge coincidence midway through the book that I found pretty unbelievable.

On the other hand, Mantel's writing style is so crisp, lucid, and memorable that I'm willing to throw in a couple of stars just for that. Perhaps her approach, when applied to different subject matter, would appeal to me. The truth was that I was looking for 'Wolf Hall' and the bookstore was out of stock--and thus, the reading of this book.

I finished it just to see how low the narrative could drag the institutions I hold dear--parenthood, family life, romance. The answer was, pretty low. Mantel does not seem to believe in love. View 1 comment. I love reading prose like Ms Mantel's: brisk, precise and compelling. It's a relief to be able to read two of her books in succession after having slogged through weightier tomes, which is no slur on any of the writing involved nor, indeed, a comment on any of the stories conveyed.

But the elegant readability of her language, the way it doesn't ever snag or get in the way of the story: it's like slipping into a comfortable robe at the end of the day. Refreshing and, like the work of Muriel Spark I love reading prose like Ms Mantel's: brisk, precise and compelling.

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Refreshing and, like the work of Muriel Spark's that it's been compared to, exceedingly crisp. That said, I'd expected more of a horror element to this book, given the reviews. The ambiguity as to the "tenants" was interesting, as was the reason the police dug up the garden and, of course, the whole thing with Muriel and her condition.

I enjoyed how Ms Mantel left so much to the reader's imagination, though I do wish she'd expanded more on Evelyn's trade. I didn't really find the book creepy, though. Grotesque, in that the characters do some really hideous things, but not at all scary.

For that, I give the book 3 stars: it's very well-written, but it doesn't evoke the tension that a book like, say, Beryl Bainbridge's "The Dressmaker" might. It's a comfortable read, which pretty much defeats the purpose of the story. I also thought it misleading that the back cover blurb makes Colin sound like a peripheral character. I found him to be the moral, if flawed, center of the story, as most of it revolved around him and the near-absurdist situations he found himself in.

This, for people who've been following my somewhat contentious discussion regarding The Marriage Artist , I thought a near-perfect example of a protagonist who isn't also the hero: again, a refreshing use of prose. I received this book gratis from Picador. Oct 15, Dan rated it liked it. Mantel is, as they say, a witty writer and I keep turning page after page with interest. She's not above preposterous coincidence or straight-faced pun. Axon is something of a medium who reaches out like an axon to trasmit messages to the other side.

But you must understand that all the characters in this book are a joyless lot whose lives are so empty they cannot for the most part even find ways to struggle for something better. Colin struggles, ineptly, and fails. Murial struggles and s Mantel is, as they say, a witty writer and I keep turning page after page with interest. Murial struggles and succeeds with some horrifying consequences. Mantel is also able in a few deft pages to show us the worst middle class children I can remember reading about. Maybe its a black comedy as reviewers are wont to say, but the comedic elements are not in the tale but in little nooks and crannies, in some of the absurdities, and in the really good satire of a character who has little connection with the story.

In spite of my occasional real laughter, both characters and story are depressing. Short of egregious generalizations to which some reviewers are given, its tale of northern English emptiness has little to say to readers who sometimes know love, fear, uncertainty or any of the other emotions. Unlike Experiment in Love, itself pretty grim, this novel does not make me want to think more about it.

Yet maybe someday I'll read the sequel,Vacant Possession; after all, she is a great writer and keeps you entertained even if you feel depressed in the process. Apr 15, Maia rated it did not like it Shelves: I can't understand all the reviews about 'the characters are unloveable' or 'there's no plot': it's very clearly a satire of manners and mores and the recent past in little england, why are you expecting 'nice' characters or a 'plot'? The later trick in the book, more common now, of interspersing beautiful writing with sarcastic comic writing works well. The dinner party isn't good, it's dull and improbable, but the Christmas scene before it is perfect.

Warning: her characters speak in scintillating wit, all of them. Not much really.

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But as a reading experience, very good Mantel's first published novel takes the reader to a very dark place indeed. I didn't really want to be there, but I couldn't look away, because it was and is all so possible. Despite the grim central story and the depressingly miserable secondary characters, there are some funny moments, not least a dinner party attended by Colin, one of the supporting cast, and his wife. A gathering of more poisonous and pretentious people would be hard to imagine.

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Brilliant stuff, but anyone reading it ne Wow! Brilliant stuff, but anyone reading it needs to be in a cheerful frame of mind!

Mother's Day Is Every Day, Not Just Once a Year

A bit like watching a train wreck. Very grim. England, s. Characters with serious, sad, issues.