‘The most powerful of all her novels, a near- faultless masterpiece of pathos, observation and feeling.’ Sunday Telegraph.’
This haunting novel by Hilary Mantel offers a beautiful unforgettable portrait of a young female driving herself to destruction. Carmel McBain, a fragile and delicate character traces her life growing up in Lancashire to attending collage in London during the 1960’s. Her mother ruthless and manipulative and her father distant Carmel is pushed to succeed and she does attending Catholic school and eventually university in London.
The story however is about the changing relationships with the friends in Carmel’s life. Firstly Karina her old school friend; the daughter of a neighbour, a bright but stolid girl who continually shadows Carmel’s life following her from Catholic school onto university life in London. Later we meet Julia, Camel’s roommate at university. Julia is a confident and elegant character with a promiscuous kick, already juggling a number of male suitors. The last main character is Lynette, a dainty but impressive student with beautiful clothing such as the fox fur coat that reappears throughout the narrative a distant luxury for poor Carmel. The description of the girls by Mantel is realistic and witty. Their conversations are sharp and deeply convincing discussing their worries about employment, the new life they live in, and sexual possibilities. Mantel’s description is honest, beautiful and captivating.
However throughout the book we see Carmel lose herself, she begins to suffer from anorexia, unable to eat due to her hatred of Karina’s weight gain. The two girls continually uncomfortable and stressed relationship begins Carmel’s withdraw leading to a frailer and more elusive character. As a reader Carmel’s problems really pulled on my heartstrings because as a reader I wanted her to succeed in the world that she thinks is far too big for her. As the story continues there are a number of events of misfortune that affects the life of the girls and forces them to re-look at the way in which they have been living. However I won’t ruin the story for you, because this is a delightful book that will not let you down as a reader!
The beauty of this book is in the writing, Mantel’s detail is stunningly beautiful such as her description of Carmel’s arrival in London. ‘the dazzle of lights on the white tiles, the dismal moans and clatters from the darkness, less like trains than departing ships.’ This continues throughout the narrative and exudes originality and quirkiness. Read this and you will not be disappointed, the characters are strong and realistic, the tone of the 70’s is fervent with the introduction of the mini skirt and the characters different friendships within university life with keep you entertained throughout this beautifully haunting story.