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Giving Up the Ghost : A Memoir

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  1,427 Ratings  ·  184 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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Sep 25, 2015 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

Hilary Mantel is one of my favourite novelists. Although it's often best not to know much about writers you admire, I'm an incurable sticky beak, so I had to read (or rather listen to) her memoir.

Mantel is just a few years older than I am and I now know that we've had a number of similar life experiences. Not literary-award winning life experiences (obviously), but personal experiences that mark your life forever. So as I listened to the audiobook and reviewed my own life in the course of learn
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
Aug 15, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilary Mantel has remarked that she had mixed feelings about publishing her memoir. She decided to set down her own story in an attempt "to seize the copyright in myself".

She writes beautifully about her early years and with astonishingly vivid recollections she captures her childhood mind. She is old beyond her years with a need to make sense of her world from a touchingly young age. She has an enquiring and elaborate imagination, an interest in understanding others and a hunger for knowledge.

Anastasia Hobbet
Feb 13, 2010 Anastasia Hobbet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
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
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
May 22, 2013 Holley Rubinsky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 15, 2011 Lizzie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, read-in-2011
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.

Britta Böhler
Sep 16, 2016 Britta Böhler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, memoirs, femlit, diverse
Mantel's memoir - written before she published Wolf Hall - is a compelling read. It mainly focusses on her childhood and the development of her illness. It is rather horrifying to be reminded how women with 'unclear' physical symptoms were treated in the 1970ies...

Debbie Robson
Dec 07, 2010 Debbie Robson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 25, 2015 Bibliophile rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Gemma collins
Sep 15, 2011 Gemma collins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jennifer Louden
Aug 24, 2015 Jennifer Louden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My god, what is this thing? Her prose, her way of putting on the page that which she claims she can not describe and does not and yet does: electric tingles. Memoir feels too small a word for this story. Read it!
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
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
Nov 04, 2014 Holly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-reads
Mantel's language is wonderful, but I don't believe this memoir will linger in my memories. - But this quotable passage I'll transcribe from the Kindle:
This is what I recommend to people who ask me how to get published. Trust your reader, stop spoon-feeding your reader, stop patronizing your reader, give your reader credit for being as smart as you at least, and stop being so bloody beguiling: you in the back row, will you turn off that charm! Plain words on plain paper. Remember what Orwell say
Nov 15, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
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
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
Always Pink
Jun 21, 2015 Always Pink rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015_top5
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.
- Upped my verdict int
Apr 03, 2011 Melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
This is a 4.5 ⭐ memoir and a must read for fans of Hilary Mantel. It was fun to read about the places, people, and events that made their way into her books, but more than that it made me admire her even more. That she managed to write anything is quite something now that I've learned how very sick and how much much pain she has endured in her life. The period in her college years when she was treated with serious psychiatric medications because the chauvinistic doctor misdiagnosed severe endome ...more
Mantel's is the kind of writing which leaves you thinking why bother with your own scribbles. She is so good. The ghost of her stepfather flickers on the first page, then a hundred pages in we are alerted to the apparition seen in the garden at the age of six or seven; this is the ghost which haunts the rest of her memoir: "I am writing in order to take charge of the story of my childhood and my childlessness; and in order to locate myself, in not within a body, then in the narrow space between ...more
Richard Newton
It's always interesting to read a few reviews with different opinions from your own as it makes you think about your critical approach to a book. I can see why some people did not like this book, it is not an uplifting or happy story. She has suffered, and even when not directly suffering does not seem to have been happy. However, I have given it a full 5 stars for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it is wonderfully written. Although Mantel is now a well known prize winning author, this is in fact t
Nov 17, 2013 Camille rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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
Feb 22, 2009 Catherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natania, 2009, england
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
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
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
May 06, 2011 Jean Walker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 05, 2017 Hella rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-letters
Dat ik geen zin heb in de romans van Hilary Mantel komt vooral doordat ze in het verkeerde tijdperk spelen. Ook al heb ik met kunstgeschiedenis de merites van andere periodes leren waarderen, mijn interesse qua historische romans houdt op bij de middeleeuwen en begint dan weer zo tegen 1900. Dat zegt dus alleen iets over mij, en niet over die boeken. Want schrijven kan Mantel. Ik heb genoten van haar autobiografie, en dan vooral van het eerste gedeelte, over haar jeugd. Ik schreef het al, bij bi ...more
Roosje de Vries
Feb 24, 2016 Roosje de Vries rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hilary Mantel, De geest geven (Giving Up the Ghost), 2004, 2016; Uitgeverij Atlas Contact verzorgt in 2016 de vertaling van Mantels autobiografische schets, die in in de UK in 2004 verscheen.

‘... dus het lijkt me niet erg om toe te geven dat ik onderdak aan geesten heb verleend. Geesten zijn de rafels en flarden van het leven van alledag, informatie die je verzamelt zonder te weten wat je ermee moet doen, kennis die je niet kunt verwerken;...’ (p. 219).

Hilary Mantel verovert ons taalgebied met
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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
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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.” 21 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.” 5 likes
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