Sunday, December 30, 2007

Possessing Oneself (books - An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel)

I worked five hours in the lab yesterday with a 6 year-old who has ADHD and we had theater tickets last night for the 500 Clowns Christmas (see my review of 500 Clown Frankenstein here) and in between we had sushi, so I didn't get in as much reading as I had hoped. I just finished Hilary Mantel's An Experiment in Love. I was really crazy about Mantel's Beyond Black, I wouldn't say this is an inferior book by any means, but it is less showy, certainly less funny. It tells of the growing up of a young woman from the English north country, of her aspirations, and of the experiences and friends that formed who she is as an adult. Mantel's narrative voice is sure her descriptions direct and a little wry, her adult's perspective is subdued by the failings of parents, friends, her school but bolstered too by their greater energy, greater risk taking, their obsessions, and their love. There is both wisdom and some regret in the adult's voice we hear. It's a really good read. A story of what it takes to learn to possess oneself. Here is a description to enjoy:

The Holly Redeemer was an academy well-thought-of in the district where it was situated - that is to say, it valued the social manner of its girls above their originality or wit. The girls themselves were lively, boastful, vain; a few were shy, a few snobbish, a few rebellious. In the seven years between our arrival as first formers and our departure from the Upper Sixth, characters changed of course- but they didn't change much. It was the girls' appearance that was subject to volcanic, dismaying alterations. Little gilt girls grew coarse and dark, gangling girls grew svelte; modest girls grew great bosoms and dragged them about like the sorrows of Young Werther. Others, pale and self-effacing as novices, whispered unnoticed through their days hardly embodied inside their solid maroon-and-clay uniforms, creeping out of the school at eighteen on the same mouse feet that had brought them in at eleven. A number of such girls secured lovers and husbands at once, without the trouble of looking for them, and began upon tumultuous and dazzling erotic careers. Some needed just a year or two to blossom into women who occupied the normal amount of space and breathed their ration of air. Some of them blossomed at thirty, no doubt, and some will find themselves at forty; some will creep on those mouse feet into old age.

And now on to # 47 The Pilrim Hawk by Glenway Wescott.

40. The Spoilt City - Olivia Manning
41. Friends and Heroes - Olivia Manning
42. Nerve Damage - Peter Abrahams
43. The Stolen Child - Keith Donohue
44. The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick
45. Tell me Everything - Sarah Salway
46. Experiment in Love - Hillary Mantel

47. The Pilgrim Hawk Glenway Wescott
48. The Last Town on Earth - Thomas Mullen
49. Lisrael - Garth Nix
50. Abhorsen - Garth Nix

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