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Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir (2003)

de Hilary Mantel

Altres autors: Mira la secció altres autors.

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
5891929,751 (3.8)65
"In postwar rural England, Hilary Mantel is a fierce, self-possessed child, schooling herself in "chivalry, horsemanship, and swordplay" and convinced that she will become a boy at age four. Catholic school comes as a rude distraction from her rich inner life. At home, where fathers and stepfathers come and go at strange, overlapping intervals, the keeping of secrets becomes a way of life. Her late teens bring her to law school in London and then to Sheffield a lover and then a husband. She acquires a persistent pain-which also shifts and travels-that over the next decade will subject her to destructive drugs, patronizing psychiatry, and, finally, at age twenty-seven, to an ineffective and irrevocable surgery. There will be no children instead she has "a ghost of possibility, a paper baby, a person who slipped between the lines." Hormone treatments alter her body beyond recognition. And in the middle of it all, she begins one novel, and then another. Hilary Mantel was born to write about the paradoxes that shimmer at the edges of our perception. Dazzling, wry, and visceral, Giving Up the Ghost is a deeply compelling book that will bring new converts to Mantel's dark genius."--Pub. desc. (Henry Holt, American ed.).… (més)

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» Mira també 65 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 19 (següent | mostra-les totes)
One of our finest writers today turns her talents inward, sharing with captivating prose the path she took to get here. The rare 'page-turner' memoir.

Os. ( )
  Osbaldistone | Sep 8, 2020 |
An amazing story by an amazing woman who is able to articulate both the wonder and the pain of her life in an honest and beautiful way. I'm not ready to give up my ghosts yet, but Mantel has done a wonderful thing in setting down how she has lived through one of the most difficult losses a woman can suffer. ( )
  Jean.Walker | Sep 1, 2019 |
Hilary Mantel’s memoir, written before she gained acclaim for her novels about Thomas Cromwell, is mostly concerned with telling the story of a mysterious illness that plagued her from late childhood. She intermittently experienced wandering pains, intense fevers, extreme weakness, debilitating nausea, and migrainous visual disturbances. Later, in her late teens and early twenties, when she was attending university and during her early marriage, her symptoms were thought to be psychiatric. She was treated with a number of psychotropic drugs—tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and antipsychotics—some of which caused her to suffer hellish side effects. She insisted to medical professionals, through the exhaustion and pharmaceutical fog, that her problem was really a physical one; she knew it was: this was not the real “her”. However, the psychiatric team regarded her “denial” as further evidence of psychiatric illness: she was refusing to accept her condition.

By age 27, however, the writing was on the wall—and Mantel parsed most of it herself. She told a specialist at St. George’s Hospital in London that she was sure that she had endometriosis, a disease in which the cells that line the uterus (cells which are shed on a monthly basis) are not restricted to the uterine lining, but have taken up residence elsewhere in the body, wreaking no end of havoc on organs and the patient’s internal environment in general. The specialist at St. George’s mistook Mantel for a fellow physician because her self-diagnosis, based on her intensive, close-reading of a medical text, was correct. Before the age of 30, then, a radical hysterectomy was performed, and a length of damaged intestine along with other scar tissue were also excised. The regimen of drugs—hormone replacement therapy to compensate for early, surgically induced menopause—took a serious toll on her body: its shape, in particular. For almost thirty years Mantel had been delicate, wafer thin, and fragile. Now she became a ever-expanding bag of flesh, unrecognizable to herself. The hormonal treatment was largely to blame, but the fact that yet another endocrine gland, the thyroid—responsible for metabolism—had also failed was another significant factor.

Mantel tells the reader that this memoir was a long and hard time coming, that she embarked on writing it with a certain trepidation, and that it represents an effort to pull herself together. While Mantel’s treatment of her long illness is quite well managed, I found sections of the book frustratingly baroque and opaque. The long chapter dedicated to the middle part of her childhood is particularly taxing to read, as it is very poorly organized. Mantel is six years old in one paragraph; eleven and a half in the next. She’s passed the exam to enter grammar school and moving to Cheshire at the end of one chapter, then back in Hadfield, her home town in the next. Her strange familial relationships are never properly cleared up for the reader. At some point in her childhood, “Jack”—some mysterious friend of the family—came to live with Mantel’s family: herself, her parents, and her two brothers. Before long, Mantel’s father had been relegated to the role of a boarder. Hilary slept in the same back bedroom with him, while Jack moved into her mother’s bed. This unconventional living arrangement occurred in a gossipy, tight-knit, and ready-to-be-morally-affronted Catholic neighbourhood in a small village. Eventually, Mantel’s father disappeared, never to be seen again.

While I understand that Mantel’s goal was, in part, to create a sense of the strangeness of (her) childhood—fulsome descriptions of sensory memories and scenes which point to a child’s confusion about adult behaviour, family rupture, and community censure and ostracism aabound—the author’s approach is just too muddled and messy for me. The narrative ends up raising more questions than it answers. Every so often there are “bridging” paragraphs, which move Mantel geographically from point A but to point B—for example, from the north of England to London, or from Africa back to England—obviously leaving out huge parts of her story. The reader is expected to make these jumps with Mantel, knowing little about the reason for them or their context.

I liked this book perhaps 50% of the time. About 25% of the time I was indifferent. The other 25% of the book—characterized as it is by overwritten, showy, and obfuscating prose—I greatly disliked. I am not sorry to have read the book. Mantel’s observations about the ways in which her biology betrayed her, her appalling medical treatment, and her difficulties adapting to a much-altered body were all worth learning about. However, I tend to think her material needed to be further steeped in time. I don’t think she was quite ready to write this book. Certainly, the prose needed some radical pruning and the mess of memories was begging for the imposition of order. Both would have made this a far more satisfying read for me. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Feb 15, 2019 |
Mantel's memoir focuses on three main aspects of her life: her dysfunctional family, her relationship to Catholicism, and her ongoing health issues. She, her parents, and her two younger brothers lived with her maternal grandparents during her early years; she was particularly close to her grandfather. Later, her parents moved into a home of their own, and her mother's lover moved in; Hilary and her father shared a room. There is some hint of sexual abuse, but it is rather obscure. At one point she says that everyone expects this to be mentioned in a memoir, and she relates a "vision" she once had of a child lying in her grandfather's garden until the ground covers her and the grass grows over her and she disappears. Maybe if you've had this experience, you know what she is hinting at, but it was all rather cryptic to me. Perhaps it's a memory that she was trying to bury, but I'm not sure.

Like a lot of Catholics, Hilary shifts between deep faith and resentment or guilt. Most of the nuns at her school were cruel. She relates one story of a nun hitting her so hard that her head turned around the wrong way. One nun in particular kept telling her that she would amount to nothing and was astonished when Hilary passed exams and was able to attend university. Her mother had pushed to get her into a better school, but other girls who knew her also attended, and they spread the stories about Hilary's "sinful" mother, leaving her rejected. But at other times, she seems to have found comfort in prayer, and she admits that reading prayers had an effect on her writing style.

The greatest amount of time is spent detailing her sad battles with ill health. She was afflicted with pains in her legs and abdomen and excessive menstrual bleeding. After seeing the university clinician, she was sent to a psychiatrist who determined that her complaints were psychosomatic; all they ever tested her for before putting her on a series of mind-muddling drugs was anemia. It was the 1960s, and she was encouraged to give up law school as the focus on "details" was supposedly affecting her mental state. Years later, she read about endometriosis and felt sure this was what she suffered from; finally, she found a doctor who agreed. But by then, at age 27, she had to undergo a hysterectomy and had several inches of her bowel removed as well. Although she had never particularly wanted children, nor did her husband, she lamented the loss of choice. Because of her youth, the doctors kept her on hormones to delay menopause, but this fed remaining endometrial cells that had wandered to other parts of her body, leading to renewed and continuing pains.

It's quite amazing that during this time, Mantel began to research and write her French Revolution novel, A Place of Greater Safety. Despite a difficult life, she managed to develop into a wonderful, Booker Award-winning writer. (Wolf Hall is my favorite historical novel of all time.) Rather than this being a first-rate memoir, I got the sense that Mantel needed to get her past out of her system by writing Giving Up the Ghost. I can only recommend it to fans who want to know more about her life and the endurance that brought her to where she is today. ( )
2 vota Cariola | Sep 29, 2016 |
not very engaging ( )
  mahallett | Jun 1, 2016 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Mantel, Hilaryautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Wymark, JaneNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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"In postwar rural England, Hilary Mantel is a fierce, self-possessed child, schooling herself in "chivalry, horsemanship, and swordplay" and convinced that she will become a boy at age four. Catholic school comes as a rude distraction from her rich inner life. At home, where fathers and stepfathers come and go at strange, overlapping intervals, the keeping of secrets becomes a way of life. Her late teens bring her to law school in London and then to Sheffield a lover and then a husband. She acquires a persistent pain-which also shifts and travels-that over the next decade will subject her to destructive drugs, patronizing psychiatry, and, finally, at age twenty-seven, to an ineffective and irrevocable surgery. There will be no children instead she has "a ghost of possibility, a paper baby, a person who slipped between the lines." Hormone treatments alter her body beyond recognition. And in the middle of it all, she begins one novel, and then another. Hilary Mantel was born to write about the paradoxes that shimmer at the edges of our perception. Dazzling, wry, and visceral, Giving Up the Ghost is a deeply compelling book that will bring new converts to Mantel's dark genius."--Pub. desc. (Henry Holt, American ed.).

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