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Giving Up the Ghost : A Memoir

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  906 ratings  ·  123 reviews

From the double Man Booker Prize-winning author of ‘Wolf Hall’, a wry, shocking and beautiful memoir of childhood, ghosts, hauntings, illness and family.

At no. 58 the top of my head comes to the outermost curve of my great-aunt, Annie Connor. Her shape is like the full moon, her smile is beaming; the outer rim of her is covered by her pinny, woven with tiny flowers. It is

Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published (first published 2003)
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Paul Bryant


I heard Hilary being interviewed and was grabbed by her weird life, not the usual middle-class sinuous blandishments at all. For a double-Booker winner she’s a walking Disease-of-the-Week movie.

Hilary Mantel has been several different women in her unusual life – young and old, poor and rich, working class and middle class, rejected and vastly successful, really thin and very fat. And she was once well but from the age of 27 she’s been ill. Her disease baffled the doctors (back
Anastasia Hobbet
This may be my least favorite Mantel, but I still savored every page. As a memoir, this one's going to be little too oblique for most people, especially fans of this great writer--and I do mean great. She won the 2009 Booker Prize, and it was long overdue. If, like me, you were hoping to learn something about Mantel's writing process, you're going to feel frustrated. Her famous quote about what advice she'd give to beginning writers ("Eat meat. Drink blood.") is here, but she doesn't spend much ...more
The back of this book is unhelpful; it makes it seem as though the whole thing is about her infertility. That's part of the story, but it's not even most of it. Most of it is about growing up Catholic, going to schools taught by nuns, growing up in a family, trying to make sense of life from a child's perspective. The mysteries of adults and the struggle to unravel them. How it is when Father is displaced by another man who is unkind, and how the neighbors know and try to shame your mother.

This is a compelling and readable memoir. It's melancholic but tinged with humour. There is a sense of longing for another self but ultimately a coming to terms with the ghost of the person she might have been.

This book is largely a childhood memoir. As you can imagine Hilary was a bright and precocious child, she amuses herself with tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the round table and desires the life of the knight errant but alas at the age of four she is disappointed to find that she d
Holley Rubinsky
Hard to believe that I just discovered Hilary Mantel, the Booker prize-winning author of Wolf Hall and, most recently, Bring Up the Bodies. Giving Up the Ghost, 2003, is one of the best autobios I have ever read. Her writing swept me away with its clarity and brilliance and at times made me laugh, pleased with the distance she could go in a paragraph. She has told a lot of truth in this book; it calls to mind Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, also about an exceptionall ...more
Debbie Robson
I've had ill health all my life and do I must admit feel sorry for myself from time to time. Well this book served as a very efficient reminder that there is always someone worse off than yourself. What Mantel went through because of apathy, her catholic background and an inefficient healthcare system is just astonishing. I do feel though that regret is the ghost she gives up. Although I was secretly hoping for details of other ghosts, this was a very worthwhile read.
Growing up, people often told me that life was no picnic (I'm not sure why, since I was already a gloomy little pessimist). These days it seems a very unfashionable thing to say, especially to kids. But although life was, and is, pretty good, I sometimes mutter this to myself and feel oddly comforted by it. Because life really can be shitty sometimes. Insisting that all obstacles can be overcome, anything is possible, you can do whatever you want etc seems so counterproductive to me, because it ...more
Deutscher Titel: Von Geist und Geistern

Hilary Mantel ist eine der wohl einflussreichsten Schriftstellerinnen unserer Zeit. Als einzige Frau hat sie mit ihren bisher erschienenen Romanen um Thomas Cromwell, “Wolf Hall” (Wölfe) und “Bring up the Bodies” (Falken) den Man Booker Prize gewonnen.

Für mich ist sie eine Lieblingsautorin, wegen ihrer wunderbaren Sprache, die mich leicht ins Schwärmen geraten lässt. Natürlich gefällt es mir auch gut, dass sie meistens auf historische Themen setzt.

“Giving u
The quality of the writing was very good, I'll give the book that; however, I found it largely a relentless downer. I've never read her fiction (and don't plan on it), but her fans may appreciate her story more than I did (definitely not her target audience).
Helen (Helena/Nell)
How interesting -- looking up this book, which is not quite the edition I read it in, or not the same picture anyway, I realised how many different books there are with this title. Anyway, this is the only Giving Up the Ghost I have read.

And it's good.

It's also the only Hilary Mantel I've read, though I'm aware of her stature as a historical novelist, and I've listened to her on the radio and read articles by her in newspapers.

This memoir is personal. Very. The early pages are slightly fragment
Gemma collins
I haven't quite finished reading this as I picked it up at a friends house and read it continuously all day, while waiting for dinner, sitting on the bus, lying in a London Park. I had to return home before I finished but I was absolutely engrossed. Hilary Mantel has such a distinct and unique style, I have never read anyone like her. It is an interesting autobiography not just for the life described, the intimate personal lives led by real, working class people in Manchester in the 1950's but a ...more
Always Pink
Very thoughtful and not at all whining description of her (medical) history by one of Britain's most prestigious authors. I cannot understand how the book can be described as a "downer" by some reviewers here on goodreads – Mantel keeps a sardonic distance and a wry humour even if battered by a still male-dominated health system. In my opinion this book is a very important addition to the feminist canon and the endeavor to write the feminine body "as it is" into existence.
Melissa Cox
This helped me through the most difficult time of my life and I can't say anything better about a book than that. It is exquisitely written, as all Hilary Mantel's books are, and is one of the most acccurate and heartbreaking accounts of what a life of pain and illness is like. I can't thank her enough for writing something that so eloquently articulates the experience of sickness without a hint of self pity or melodrama.
Giving up the Ghost, a relatively short memoir by Hilary Mantel, recounts bits and pieces of her life. But the material included, as illuminated by Mantel’s imagery and descriptive prose, creates a picture of a childhood and adolescence marked with the shame of her mother’s personal choices and a young adulthood marred by chronic physical pain and the self-doubt and trepidation that accompanies an undiagnosed illness.

However, Giving Up the Ghost is so much more than a window into the life of au
An eminently readable book, Mantel's autobiography is chilling, charming, and absorbing in turn. I recognized much here of the places I grew up - the same terraced houses; the same paved yards; the same stone walls and grey skies. I certainly recognized the pragmatic satisfaction of Mantel's grandparents, although it's hard to know if that satisfaction is deep, or warm, or simply a resignation to fact.

I liked this book best as Mantel worked through her childhood and early teen years. There's a l
The endometriosis monologues. Very painful reading.

"'When I was young,' I said diffidently, 'I used to think that dog was a cow.' I was hoping to prompt the reply, 'Well, actually, secretly, it is,' but the reply I got was, 'Don’t be silly.'"

"She didn’t understand their genteel nursey euphemisms, and when they handed her a flask and asked her to pass water she came across to ask if I knew what the fuck they were talking about."

"When the professor had examined me at Outpatients, a week or two ea
This is the first Mantel I've read that I didn't find utterly compelling. At least not all the way through. The last section of the book, dealing with her long-undiagnosed illness and the treatment for non-existent madness that intermittently drove her mad, is horrible and fascinating and helps make sense of earlier quirks and what seemed to me an occasional lack of generosity. Mantel's persona is far from all sweetness and light, and this is in itself successfully represented as part of a neces ...more
Als 2010 Hilary Mantels Biografie Tomas Cromwells in Deutschland erschien, erlangten damit auch ihre Werke aus den fünfundzwanzig Jahren schriftstellerischer Tätigkeit zuvor neue Aufmerksamkeit. Schriftstellerbiografien befriedigen die Neugier von Lesern, welches Kind ein Autor gewesen ist und ob sich dessen Begabung bereits in der Kindheit gezeigt hat.

Hilary Mantel und ihr Mann Gerald McEwen vollziehen im Jahr 2000 einen radikalen Schnitt, als sie gleichzeitig ihr Wohnhaus und ihr Cottage in No
I found the writing in this book to be unnecessarily opaque and dream-like but not in a good way. I did love, on page 66, this bit (buried amongst blurry sentences about her fuzzy memories of her childhood):

If people ask my advice about writing I say, don't show your work before you're ready. They understand this, and are glad to be given permission to be cautious. I should add, don't do your work before you're ready. Just because you have an idea for a story doesn't mean you're ready to write i
For years I have been enjoying Mantel's book reviews in the London Review of Books. This memoir of her childhood is most unusual. SHE is most unusual. This is not a chronological relating of memories so much as an attempt at self-analysis. Mantel tries to make sense out of how her childhood experiences made her into the person she is today. Very very interesting reading.
Jean Walker
An amazing story by an amazing woman who is able to articulate both the wonder and the pain of her life in an honest and beautiful way. I'm not ready to give up my ghosts yet, but Mantel has done a wonderful thing in setting down how she has lived through one of the most difficult losses a woman can suffer.
Emily Walters
Mantel's memoir skillfully interweaves the twin stories of Mantel's childhood and her childlessness. At first, I was a bit disoriented by her many leaps back and forth in time and place, but I was entranced by her brilliant writing style once I accepted the nonlinear timeline. Her precise, unsentimental memories manage to capture the both the vivid emotions of childhood and her struggles with an undiagnosed illness and eventual infertility. Mantel's fierce yet sensitive personality comes across ...more
I just loved this book! Having lingered over it because I wanted to spin out the sheer pleasure of the reading, I have now ordered it to buy and keep on the bookshelf. To delve into now and then.

For example, examining her own modus operandi,: ".... Orwell says, that good prose is like a window-pane. Concentrate on sharpening your memory and peeling your sensibility. Cut every page you write by at least one-third. Stop constructing those piffling little similes of yours.....Eat meat. Drink blood.
A highly personable memoir that is not immediately accessible to the reader and must have been even harder to write. Mantel starts off with early memories of a childhood in rural Derbyshire that was strongly influenced by Catholicism. More or less skipping her teens - she admits she still cannot write about this period, may never will - she continues with the painful, repeatedly misdiagnosed illness that begun haunting her in her late teens. After she finally (correctly) self-diagnoses herself w ...more
Wow, what a book!

What I learned? A memoir is a totally different beast from an autobiography. At least it is in Ms. Mantel's hands.

I swear that I read at least a third of the book, wandering from memory to memory, wondering just what was the plan? Where am "I" going? But I kept reading because her writing was so compelling and so wonderful to read.

And then the memories began to jell and I was hooked. I couldn't put it down and, at the same time, wanted to slow down and savor each page.

What a lif
There is no self-pity in this memoir, which is poignant, unexpectedly funny at times. If anything there is too much self-control, and even minute traces of self-loathing. In handling the sections of her childhood, she shapes the story to the child’s half understandings. The male figures, father, step-father, brothers, husband, are at best presences. Yet every sentence, every phrase in this book is breathtaking, artfully crafted, subtly shaped. We almost forget the message given at the beginning. ...more
Lyn Elliott
I found this difficult to read precisely because Mantel's scalpel sharp eye is applied equally to the miasmas that swirl around her, her physical illness and personal awkwardnesses. Yes, her writing is brilliant. But I much prefer the historical fiction.
I've just attempted to read her opening piece, 'Meeting the Devil' in a 2013 anthology of memoir from the London Review of Books which takes its title from Mantel's contribution. In it, she writes in bloody, excruciating and horrifying detail abo
David Streever
I love Mantel, but not this book; I think 50% of it is spent on her early childhood (sub 8).

I can't believe she remembers so much (especially when so much of it feels so banal!), but I give her credit for admitting at the opening that writing a memoir is hard and she feels like she was a bit adrift in much of it. As a reader, I felt that way too.

I enjoyed getting to know more of her life story, and there were certain bits that informed how I have read some of her novels, but on the whole I didn'
Take this walk with Hilary Mantel and you will, most days, not know where you’re going even if she claims to tell you at the onset. A small book, …Ghost finds a ghost around ever corner and follows it. I grew dizzy even as I loved her rich visions, her observations, and her vocabulary. I give this a high mark because I realize that it is my own ghosts of wanting things linear that kept me from being tied to the reading until it was done. I couldn’t plow through the tedium of being on tangents. B ...more
Suzie Grogan
A wonderful book, brilliantly written. The only reason it doesn't get 5 stars is its length - it could be 25% longer and still leave me wanting more.

It is interesting particularly as it was written before Wolf Hall and her subsequent successes. There is a sense that something wonderful is about to happen to Hilary and her success is so well-deserved.
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Hilary Mantel is the bestselling author of many novels including Wolf Hall, which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Bring Up the Bodies, Book Two of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, was also awarded the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Award. She is also the author of A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, An ...more
More about Hilary Mantel...
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2) A Place of Greater Safety Beyond Black The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

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“You come to this place, mid-life. You don’t know how you got here, but suddenly you’re staring fifty in the face. When you turn and look back down the years, you glimpse the ghosts of other lives you might have led; all houses are haunted. The wraiths and phantoms creep under your carpets and between the warp and weft of fabric, they lurk in wardrobes and lie flat under drawer-liners. You think of the children you might have had but didn’t. When the midwife says, ‘It’s a boy,’ where does the girl go? When you think you’re pregnant, and you’re not, what happens to the child that has already formed in your mind? You keep it filed in a drawer of your consciousness, like a short story that never worked after the opening lines.” 18 likes
“The story of my own childhood is a complicated sentence that I am always trying to finish, to finish and put behind me. It resists finishing, and partly this is because words are not enough; my early world was synaesthesic, and I am haunted by the ghosts of my own sense impressions, which re-emerge when I try to write, and shiver between the lines.” 4 likes
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