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Mantel, Hilary

british africa revolution cultural

(British 1952– )

One of the most versatile of British novelists, Hilary Mantel was born in the north of England, but has lived in London, Africa, and Saudi Arabia. Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988) gives in exquisite and painful detail the reactions of one woman to living in a Middle Eastern country with all the cultural alienation and darkness that lie beneath the surface of expatriate life. Mantel has also written about the French Revolution in A Place of Greater Safety (1992), about the underworld of eighteenth-century society in The Giant, O'Brien (1998), and about the profound effects of trauma and loss on the lives of an English family who have lived in Africa in A Change of Climate (1994). Her work sets the internal, psychological worlds of her characters against the broad landscape of cultural revolution in a way that allows her to combine the minutely detailed with the panoramic. The book to start with is Fludd (1989), which describes, to darkly comic effect, the effect of an ambiguous yet charismatic priest on a village in Derbyshire. Mantel's sense of place is sharply and powerfully realized, and the satirical moments coexist, or even depend upon, her acknowledgement of the inherent mystery of human life. Mantel has said that she is influenced by Muriel Spark, and works such as Memento Mori contain a similar dark wit.

Lesley Glaister, Jane Rogers, Deborah Moggach  LM

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