Friday, October 17, 2014

book review: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

The basics: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is a collection of unrelated short stories.

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
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Hilary Mantel's website and like her on Facebook

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  1. Nice review -- I wonder if this collection came out to cash in, so to speak, on her award winning fame. I've got this in the wings -- may thumb through it.

    1. It definitely felt like "oh, I've published enough short stories over the years, let's put them in a single book and sell them!" ring to it.

  2. I am glad to hear someone else is intimidated by this author! I like the opportunity short stories offer to dip in and out of an author's work - that seems especially apt with this collection since the stories are not threaded together at all.

  3. Hmmm - I would have thought, from the title and cover, that this might be dark comedy. Think I'll pass on it. If I'm picking up a short story collection, I'm really looking for something that will draw me all of the way in.


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