‘Like Lorna Sage's “Bad Blood”, “Giving Up the Ghost” is a story of childhood that is also a piece of history. A masterpiece.’ Rachel Cusk
“Giving Up the Ghost” is award-winning novelist Hilary Mantel's wry, shocking and beautifully written autobiography.
It opens in 1995 with ‘A Second Home’, in which Mantel describes the death of her stepfather, a death which leaves her deeply troubled by the unresolved events of childhood. ‘Now Geoffrey Don't Torment Her’ begins in typical, gripping Mantel fashion: ‘Two of my relatives have died by fire.’ Set during the 1950s, it takes the reader into the muffled consciousness of her early childhood, culminating with the birth of a younger brother and the strange candlelit ceremony of her mother’s ‘churching’. Mantel then moves to a haunted house and mysteriously gains a stepfather. When she is almost eleven, her family flee the gossips and the ghosts, and resolve to start a new life. Teenage perplexity displaces childhood dreams of Arthurian knights as her home turns into a place where the keeping of secrets has become a way of life. Convent school provides a certain sanctuary, with tacit assistance from the fearsome ‘Top Nun’. After making good her escape to university and her own marriage, the author reveals how, through medical misunderstandings and neglect, she came to be childless, and how the ghosts of the unborn, like chances missed or pages unturned, have come to haunt her life as a writer.
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