Publication date: 30th September 2014
HILARY MANTEL is one of Britain's most accomplished and acclaimed writers. In these ten bracingly transgressive tales, all her gifts of characterisation and observation are fully engaged, ushering concealed horrors into the light. Childhood cruelty is played out behind the bushes in 'Comma'; nurses clash in 'Harley Street' over something more than professional differences; and in the title story, staying in for the plumber turns into an ambiguous and potentially deadly waiting game.
Whether set in a claustrophobic Saudi Arabian flat or on a precarious mountain road on a Greek island, these stories share an insight into the darkest recesses of the spirit. Displaying all of Mantel's unmistakable style and wit, they reveal a great writer at the peak of her powers.
I read the 4th Edition paperback copy but I so like the original cover (above) that I decided to use it. The 4th edition (shown on the left) has an additional story entitled 'The School of English."
This book is a collection of short stories and, as one would expect, some stand out more than others. I will start with the ones that stood out for me. I am going to refrain from providing too much plot description because I believe it is best to read them knowing as little as possible.
Sorry to Disturb.
In this comical story, typical British 'politeness' leads to a situation that spirals out of control. For me it is about the clashing of cultural norms. I felt like I was a fly on the wall, observing what was taking place in that Saudi apartment.
The Long QT
What appears to be a predictable tale of infidelity turns into something entirely unexpected. The story is short and yet has so much to offer. The narrator is an observer of an extra-marital affair who is indirectly affected by the consequences.
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher
This is the last story in the book and, in my view, the best. A young woman whose flat is directly opposite the hospital where the prime minister is an in-patient receives a visitor under the pretext that he is an emergency plumber. Although, I would not have wished the title of the story a reality (I did not like the woman but I am a humanitarian), as a work of fiction it is simply brilliant.
This was my first read by Hilary Mantel. and, if it is anything to go by, the author certainly deserves the high praise she receives.