My thoughts: Hilary Mantel is an author who intimidates me. Although many rave about her two most recent novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, both of which won the Booker Prize, I don't find myself as drawn to them. Still, I wanted to read Mantel, and her new collection of stories presented the perfect opportunity. The title story and book cover are audacious, and I was eager to dive in.
There is no link, thematically or otherwise, to these stories. In that sense, the collection doesn't feel like a collection. If pressed, I wouldn't even guess the same person wrote all of them. As is typical, I enjoyed some more than others. The standout story in this collection is "The Heart Fails Without Warning," which tackles anorexia by examining the perspectives of each member of a family with two daughters, one of whom is anorexic. It's haunting and beautifully written. It comes late in the collection, and as much as it moved me, it didn't seem to fit with the other stories.
Favorite passage: "What a good thing, that time does that for us. Sprinkles us with mercies like fairy dust." [from "Comma"]
The verdict: As a collection, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is uneven. There are some highlights, particularly "The Heart Fails Without Warning." The title story is also an intriguing one. After reading these stories, however, I don't have a sense of who Mantel is as a writer, and I'm left with more curiosity.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 256 pages
Publication date: September 30, 2014
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
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