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Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,559 Ratings  ·  206 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
Paperback, Large Print, 261 pages
Published January 5th 2005 by Thorndike Press (first published 2003)
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Sep 25, 2015 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
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm writing this review from the corner of my bedroom. . . crouched, like an animal, typing with the fingers of my right hand, biting away at the nail of my left thumb.

Ouch. Make this book go away. Can I ship it to you? FedEx it to your door? Or shall I fling it, fling it hard, toward your head? Believe me, I'd be doing you a favor, if I knocked you out cold.

I'd burn it, this book, but I can feel it's not safe to do so here. I feel certain it would leave an oily residue and its essence would rec
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 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
Aug 15, 2011 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.

Holley Rubinsky
May 22, 2013 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
Britta Böhler
Sep 16, 2016 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...

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
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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...
“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.” 23 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.” 7 likes
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