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Vacant Possession

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  576 Ratings  ·  74 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
ebook, 240 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1986)
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Jay Daze
Sep 20, 2009 Jay Daze rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: female-author
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
Jul 25, 2007 Sheryl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
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
May 25, 2013 Phil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 14, 2011 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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;
Nov 06, 2014 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not only did I not like this book, I felt the need to get it out of my house as quickly as possible. It's very well written from the standpoint of plot pacing and sheer artistry with language, but it is so creepy and devoid of sympathy that I was afraid of contamination. There was not a single character that was worthy of redemption. Although I detested every page, I kept reading for the same reason that one gawks at horrible auto accidents.
Rosi Moore-fiander
Blacker than black and hilariously funny. Brilliantly written and cleverly structured, tension builds throughout the book reaching an enigmatic climax.
Chris Sanders
Aug 22, 2016 Chris Sanders rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly unejoyable.
Carol Johnson
Sep 28, 2016 Carol Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though I gave this book 4 stars, 4 stars for Hilary Mantel is 5 stars for anyone else. This book is not as good as her other books - or, perhaps I just don't like it as much. It's the second part of a two-book series (the first is "every day is mother's day"). Slightly Faulkneresque.
Nov 10, 2011 Doreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 fell back into his chair and stared at the TV. It was an early evening variety show. To the accompaniment of facetious patter, a magician held up a burning spike and passed it slowly through the forearm of his studio volunteer. The audience applauded. The magician withdrew the brand, and held it flickering aloft. The volunteer's face wore a set, worried smile. There was an expectant hush; a roll of drums; and then the magician, with great deliberation, whipped the flame through the air an ...more
May 12, 2010 Paula rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘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
Jan 24, 2016 Chrystyna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vacant Possession by Hilary Mantel - very Good
I really shouldn't put off writing down my thoughts on the books I read, it's been almost a month since I read this and I've read another 4 and a half since then. Nevertheless, this one has stuck with me.

Written back in 1986 well before the dizzy heights of Wolf Hall et al, this is a very strange little book. Bleakly, darkly funny and a little disturbing, the story centres around Murial Axon, newly released from an institution and hell bent on destro
Nov 13, 2012 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
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
Robert Corbett
May 14, 2012 Robert Corbett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 28, 2011 Derek Baldwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 04, 2014 Joy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Julia  Yeates
There were so many errors, a 1 in place of an I, weird characters in place of punctuation marks, odd formatting etc, did something go awry in the creation of the Kindle version? I can't believe that the proofreader would not spot these 'mistakes' so I assume so.

No excuse though, especially in a novel by Hilary Mantel.
Does no-one proofread Kindle versions? If not, why not?

So whilst the story was good, albeit at times confusing, and the writing made me alternate between chuckles and winces, I'm n
Apr 22, 2012 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 31, 2013 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 20, 2016 Carla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Hilary Mantel is an amazing writer, this book falls short. I didn't know until half way into it, that is was a sequel to another of her books which I didn't read first. Kind of disappointing, but alas I don't know if it would have made a difference in whether I enjoyed it. It's dark. It's a tragic tale of a woman who is released from a psychiatric facility and plots against those that put her there. This last sentence most surprises me, and it would be right up my alley, but I just found i ...more
Apr 07, 2016 Jyv rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I picked this book up without realising I'd read it 9 years ago. The book title seemed vaguely familiar but I didn't remember the story from reading the back cover. That's how much of an impression the book had left on me. However, I started re-reading it and got to about a quarter of the way through before realising I really wasn't interested. I didn't care what happened and when I started skimming, it was a sign to stop and give up. Just not worth the effort even a second time.
Katie Q
Jul 09, 2012 Katie Q rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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).
Mar 03, 2013 Simone rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 25, 2012 Jean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

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.
Jul 12, 2011 Monika rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 12, 2012 Cai rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 02, 2015 Yeemay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A darkly comic novel of the state of the nation at the end of the twentieth century, 1984, in fact, Mantel's sequel to Every Day is Mother's Day. This read very much like Ruth Rendell to me rather than Bernice Rubens but compelling, nevertheless. One is overcome by revulsion and sympathy in equal measure for all the deeply flawed characters (but I suppose we are all thus) mired in the beginnings of the Age of Thatcher. Very, very funny at times but bleakly depressing, too. Sums up the period.
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.
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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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