Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Giving Up the Ghost” as Want to Read:
Giving Up the Ghost
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Giving Up the Ghost

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  703 ratings  ·  93 reviews
In postwar rural England, Hilary Mantel grew up convinced that the most improbable of accomplishments, including "chivalry, horsemanship, and swordplay," were within her grasp. Once married, however, she acquired a persistent pain that led to destructive drugs and patronizing psychiatry, ending in an ineffective but irrevocable surgery. There would be no children; in herse ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Picador (first published 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Giving Up the Ghost, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Giving Up the Ghost

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,644)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Paul
GIRLS! GIRLS!! GIRLS!!!


It wasn’t planned or anything – and this is a giant coincidence but it seems to have started last November and I only just noticed it. I think it started with Alissa Nutting and her outrageous Celeste Price, then came Muriel Spark and her various girls of slender means, Patricia Highsmith, Carol Ann Lee skewering her gruesomely fascinating subject Myra Hindley; there was Sarah Glidden suffering anxiety attacks on a tour of Israel; Kate Atkinson giving us the dozen or so U
...more
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
J.
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
...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.
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
Lizzie
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.

Late
...more
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
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.
John
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).
Catherine
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
...more
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
...more
Peter
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
Anittah
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
...more
Rita
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.
Camille
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
...more
Ursula
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
Joyce
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
...more
David
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
...more
Linda
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
...more
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'
...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.
Holly
Nov 17, 2014 Holly added it
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
...more
Kath
I loved the way that Hilary described her early life. I knew very little about her before I read this and can see where some of her literary inspiration has come from. She came from an ordinary working class background and has achieved so much. I would love to discover more about her historical writing and research - perhaps she will write a sequel!
Linda
Feb 11, 2014 Linda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: ebook
I love Mantel's writing, and in this book, there are such beautiful sentences that make me want to break out in cheers and at the same time suggest that I should just concede defeat now and never try to write anything ever again.

The sections about her childhood are wonderful, amusing and insightful and fascinating and shocking. Then she moves to her adulthood, and her medical issues that led to her childlessness. Her matter-of-fact explanation of her struggles to get doctors to take her seriousl
...more
Robert Nevins
Gloriously vicious writing. I really enjoyed this, in in the Audible edition read brilliantly by Jane Wymark.
AJW
This is a well written autobiography, with acutely observed memories of a tough life, though she admits that there are some secrets she's not willing to share.

A good autobiography like this helps me to see the world through another person's eyes. Hilary Mantel is a person very different from me, and I struggled at times to relate to the author. At times, only her writing skills kept me engaged as she doesn't always come across as a likeable person. But I was able to relate to her appalling treat
...more
Manda
This book presents a partial autobiography of Hilary Mantel. I enjoyed reading this book, which took me back to my childhood, to the time when I really thought that I was able to fly, and was populated by people who seem far more solid and real than people do now, perhaps because older people then did not spend the money on changing, either furniture or clothes, so seemed as steady as rocks. Now, people seem to change constantly.

This book is about bits and pieces of time. The early part of Hilar
...more
Mellie
Though Mantel does not always follow the typical formula of an autobiography, her reflections on her life are still stunningly written. I am glad that she did not dissect every bit of her past; this may be one of the reasons why the narrative flows more like a story instead of a relating of simple facts (in a positive way). It was interesting to see her skip around in time a bit to fully explain her train of thought or finish a story. Doing so helped keep the flow of that particular bit of the n ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 54 55 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Selected Letters
  • Bad Blood
  • Skating To Antarctica
  • Castles in the Air: The Restoration Adventures of Two Young Optimists and a Crumbling Old Mansion
  • The Emperor's Babe
  • Red Dust Road: An Autobiographical Journey
  • Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography
  • In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor
  • Time To Be In Earnest: A Fragment Of Autobiography
  • Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford
  • Experience: A Memoir
  • Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words: Travels with Mom in the Land of Dementia
  • My Father And Other Working Class Football Heroes
  • Dart
  • The House of Six Doors
  • Cesare Borgia: His Life and Times
  • Myself When Young
  • Growing Pains: The Autobiography of Emily Carr
58851
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 Wolf Hall / Bring Up the Bodies

Share This Book

“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.” 17 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
More quotes…