Vacant Possession
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Vacant Possession

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  326 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Ten years have passed since Muriel Axon was locked away for society's protection, but psychiatric confinement has only increased her malice and ingenuity. At last free, she sets into motion an intricate plan to exact revenge on those who had her put away. Her former social worker, Isabel, and her old neighbors have moved on, but Muriel, with her talent for disguise, will i...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Picador (first published 1986)
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Muriel Axon is released from a mental institution, and plots revenge upon her social worker and neighbors who she feels have wronged her. A very black comedy of errors, it's a well written book, but not an enjoyable book. The problem is, every character in it is such a miserable sod, I couldn't work up the least bit of sympathy for any of them. It's not a good sign when you hope all the characters in a book commit mass suicide.
Jay Daze
A Jacobean changeling revenge play, a ghost haunted world, an institutionalized world where Brits are dehumanized and alienated all in the effort to 'care' for them in way that is deeply uncaring. Muriel Axon is the monstrously wonderful axle around which this story of the destruction of a family rotates. She toys with the other characters in a dreaming, musing, vengeful way.

A disturbing book, which clings to my mind like some vicious animal, raking my brain with its claws. It doesn't even let t...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
This sequel to Every Day Is Mother's Day is even bleaker than the 1st book! What is it that compels me to read about characters I feel no connection or sympathy for? To call it humour is a stretch; it’s just a strange & fascinating story that’s really well told. You’ll enjoy it more if you read "Every Day is Mother's Day" 1st
Very, very funny - and also not a little dark. Didn't realise till I read the brief essay by HM at the end of this edition that it was a sequel to "Every Day Is Mothers' Day", which I haven't read yet, but it's a good standalone in itself. The author said in a recent interview that when she was starting out she had no real facility for plot, and in the first few chapters of this early novel that shows - it feels a bit formulaic, like it's trying too hard. But such is the strength of her very rea...more
This is the super creepy follow-up to "Every Day is Mother's Day." It's ten years later and a wronged and pathetic character from the previous novel is let loose from the loony bin, set on ruining the lives of the people she thinks put her there.

There were a lot of loose ends in "Every Day is Mother's Day," but "Vacant Possession" ties them up almost too well. One theme of the novel is coincidence, which is intentional, but requires some suspension of disbelief. It feels like an unreal parable;...more
I didn't realize this novel was a sequel to Mantel's novel Every Day Is Mothers' Day. You can easily read this book without having read the previous book first. Events from the story are recounted by various characters. I do think it may have helped with a deeper understanding of the people though. It's a successful, black comedy- very dark on the comedy- but it was so disturbing that I really couldn't get into the story. For what Hilary Mantel is trying to accomplish, it works as an unsettling...more
totally unnecessary.
‘Vacant Possession’ is the sequel to ‘Every Day is Mother’s Day’ by Hilary Mantel.

‘Vacant Possession’ begins 10 years after the events at the Axon’s house which ultimately led to Muriel being placed in Fulmers Moor in the Greyshott Ward as part of her rehabilitation to eventually return to society, which she does, but Muriel has changed, she can now mimicry (mimic) and is a mistress of disguise, one of Muriel’s hidden traits is that she watches people and for ten years she has been watching eve...more
After gorging on Every Day Is Mother's Day, the prequel to this book (and being a bit disappointed, really, by the "horror" elements of the former,) I took my time with this novel, savoring Ms Mantel's clean, sharp prose and enjoying the contrast in the same characters written of previously, engendered by the passing of a decade. I enjoyed their realistic progression from the 1970s to the 1980s, particularly Sylvia's. She wasn't very sympathetic in the first book, but recommended herself much mo...more

Colin Sidney and his dysfunctional family live in the house formerly owned by the Muriel Axon and her mother, a psychic reader. Muriel Axon is sent to a psychiatric institution after her mother dies in a fall but Muriel is released due to budget constraints and she is seeking revenge on those she blames for her problems. A complex web connects Colin and his family, the Axon's social worker, and Muriel Axon. In the end, no one is safe from Muriel, themselves, their family, and British social serv...more
Miss Karen Jean Martinson
Creepy, creepy stuff. Muriel, let loose in the community and left to her own devices, undertakes a horrible and horrifying plan to become restore things to what they were before she went to the mental hospital. She puts on personae to travel through the village undetected as she manipulates the lives around her. Though things have "gone on" for the ten years that Muriel was away, they haven't gone well. No one is particularly happy, and Thatcher's policies only seem to make things worse. The sic...more
A black comedy about social work, at the heart of this novel is a woman who wreaks havoc on a middle class family because they took possession of the house she grew up in, though saying "grew up" suggests more normalcy than her Carrie-like upbringing would allow. Coincidences and ironies abound, all centering around professions and roles assumed to be "helping professions"--education, ministry, social work, parenthood--and their inadequacy at dealing with trouble that sets its mind at being trou...more
Derek Baldwin
Released into Care In The Community, a woman with a horribly disturbed upbringing carefully plots her revenge against the various people she feels were responsible for her incarceration, not least the Social Worker who was last to handle her "case".

I hadn't realised this was a sequel, but it didn't seem to matter as the novel was perfectly self-contained.

Mordant, and very terse, style of writing, which can seem affectless. While the novel is witty it is never very funny, but quite a quick and un...more
Collette Callan

The characters were not likeable, having read the whole book I felt the ending was such a disappointment I feel I wasted the time spent reading the book.
For anyone who enjoys a really dry, black comedy, this is for you.

Muriel Axon is one fucked up lady. Well, three fucked up ladies. You'll love and loathe each one of her.
This is the sequel to Every Day is Mother's Day which I have marked 'to-read'. Vacant Possession is dark, savage and extremely funny. It is packed full of co-incidences in a Ruth Rendell-esque sort of way. Husband of Family A has affair with Wife of Family B. Daughter of Family A has affair and a child by Husband of Wife B. Mother of Father A in the same old people's ward as father of Wife B Both families were involved with social care of Muriel Axon who murdered her mother and has been released...more
Oh My god this was worse than the first one my advice give it a wide berth
Plamen Miltenoff
sorry folks, had to abandon at p. 72. just did not click for me
Don't read this in the house on your own!
Alexandra Whittington-jones
Scary and intriguing. Quite disturbing.
I didn't find this novel as frightening as "Every Day is Mother's Day," because the revenge plotted by Muriel Ashton is understandable, even predictable. What is shocking, however, is the denouement which suggests that it's impossible to control events or even to find reasons for them. The most terrible things can come about by coincidence or strange convergences. The novel starts slow (having to summarize events of the prequel), but then it's a fast read, better plotted than most thrillers and...more
I absolutely adored Hilary Mantel's WOLF HALL, so I approached this earlier novel of hers with high expectations. VACANT POSSESSION is a much earlier work of Mantel's and its aspirations are quite different. It is macabre and stylized, humorous in a certain way, but not exactly the kind of novel I love to read. The main character is damaged and vengeful, and it is hard to identify with her. I saw elements of the writer Mantel has become, but I did not particularly love the book.
Hilary Mantel is a queen of that very subtle British dark humor that Americans just don't get as well. I wouldn't have thought of this book as humorous if I hadn't been primed by the reviews to think so. It's an entertaining story of characters in a small town who are tied together through interactions in their daily lives. The overall theme questions the idea of what constitutes madness. Unfortunately, the plot just kind of petered out. I doubt I would read another of her books.

It is "well written, but weird," my friend Charley said. I agree. I almost put it down half way through. Then I misplaced it and really, really wanted to find out what happened. I bought this novel because I had read and loved "Wolf Hall"; this is NOTHING like "Wolf Hall." "Vacant Possession" is a darkly comic novel of revenge in which the protagonist has been committed to a mental hospital for ten years. When she is released, she plots revenge on two families.
I had heard of Hilary Mantel and read Fludd and then this book. I found the book too disturbing to finish. I was scared of Muriel and frightened that I would meet someone like her or give myself nightmares if I finished reading to the end and found a dreadful ending of cruelty. I have had a difficult life and can't take books which are too dark - felt the same with the dragon tattoo books. I recognised the cleverness of the book but just couldn't take it.
However many awards she wins I just find her books hard going. I thought I'd read this one and enjoy it, but I found it a bit like ordering a nice steak and finding it tough. It is very densely written, and at times it can be hard to keep track of who all the characters are. I did like the idea of the book, with Muriel's assumption of different personae. Perhaps I just read it when I really wanted something different and am being too hard on her.
Katie Q
Crikey I am a little stunned by this book. It has a little bit of everything in it and makes compelling reading.

The ending is just hanging. I need to know more but I doubt there is another in this series.

I cannot get this out of my head - now that is a good book.

So, I am about to do something very much unlike me, I am now going to embark on the prequel to this story (yes I read them back to front it seems not that it matters).
Lynn Hall
Exquisite and horrifying... As always, Hilary Mantel's lucid prose draws you into the world she creates. In this case the standard suburban landscape becomes so creepy and terrifying that I could hardly bear to read the final few pages. It's like a David Lynch movie ("Blue Velvet") written by Jane Austen.

Technically the book is a sequel (to "Every Day is Mother's Day"), but I haven't read the first book and this one felt self-contained to me.
Gerry Parle
Intrigueing. Dark. Stylishly written.
Boring enough that I had trouble finishing it. I didn't realize it was a sequel, so maybe I would feel somewhat differently if I'd read the first book. But I doubt it. The characters were just totally uninteresting and she didn't draw me into their inner lives in a way that would actually bring me to sympathize with them.
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Hilary Mary Mantel, née Thompson was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, England on 6 July 1952. She studied Law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She was employed as a social worker, and lived in Botswana for five years, followed by four years in Saudi Arabia, before returning to Britain in the mid-1980s. In 1987 she was awarded the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for an article a...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

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