Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Beyond Black: A Novel Paperback – April 18, 2006
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
A recent New Yorker article on Mantel gave me the idea that she might have something to tell me, and I was happily right. I was already prepared for the eerie and inexplicable; Mary Roach, however, prepared me for
mediums fortified with cooking sherry and booking rooms in pubs and bowling alleys. As I was completely new to Mantel, I found myself immersed in her unique mix of humor and ugliness. I was just delighted when a grey sock turned up in Colette's dryer (a very ominous sign), and when Al found her new spirit guides to be two little old ladies who required padded drawers on outings.
I'll read Mantel again, that's a certainty. In the meantime, it's four stars for "Beyond Black"...and an unconditional plug for Mary Roach's "Spook," while we're at it!
As a novelist, Mantel has never been one to tip her hand. She keeps us guessing, for example about the true identity of the title character in "Fludd," and we never know how the protaganist of "An Experiment in Love" gets over her anorexia. When it comes to characterization Mantel shows rather than tells; she relies on evocative imagery, rather than on psychobabble, to shed light on the motivation of her characters. As Margaret Atwood says in her review of "An Experiment in Love," it is "what you don't know" that haunts you after you've finished one of Mantel's novels.
But I think that Mantel goes too far off in this direction in "Beyond Black." She simply doesn't tell the reader enough to make the story hang together. Her background characters-- Alison's psychic colleagues, Colette's ex-husband, even the spectral Morris-- are caricatures. And the two protagonists are incomprehensible. We never really understand what draws Colette to the "psychic business" in the first place, given that she spends most of the novel being so skeptical. And we never really understand what it's like to be Allison, to have the dead tormenting you all the time. The flashbacks to Allison's past are ghastly and beautiful, but the "present tense" narrative is mostly taken up by innane dialogue that never seems to go anywhere.
Both of the reviews I read of this book-- in the New York Times and the Washington Post-- are very favorable, so I'm wondering if I'm missing something. Did anybody see anything in this novel that I didn't?
Mantel has a magnificent talent for writing about the indignation people feel when trapped within systems which treat them impersonally. She's written about this when describing her experiences in hospital within her insightful memoir Giving up the Ghost. In one scene of Beyond Black, Alison and her business partner Colette buy a new house. The anguish of dealing with an estate agent who assumes they are lesbians and treats them with a perfunctory formality is expertly described. There is also a very funny scene when Alison goes to the doctor.Read more ›
The book opens wonderfully, and I was fully engaged within a few pages. The characters are well-drawn. While not sympathetic, Allison and Colette are very real. Mantel engages her trademark blend of sympathy and savagery while describing these women and their damaged lives.
The real struggle with the book comes midway through the story. As though she painted herself into a corner, the trope of revelation through the conversations with Morris falls flat and becomes repetitive. I got and even respect the parody of the "troubled childhood gradually revealing itself" that Mantel uses. It's very funny, and the humor resonates with the real grief of broken lives. This said, the joke goes on for far too long, and by the end of the book I was simply glad that it was over. 100 pages less would have done a lot to tighten the book and correct most of the problems that I had with the build up of the story.
There are some truly brilliant bits sprinkled throughout the book. Humor and pathos and the claustrophobia of life around the highways are the gems of the novel. I wish that they could have been more consistent, or more densely placed.
Fans of Mantel should read it. Be aware that it is not her best work. Particularly given the glowing reviews, it is a bit of a disappointment. Probably obvious if you know anything about Mantel as a writer, but this isn't a novel suitable for younger readers. Much of the material is extremely disturbing and often quite graphic.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting concept, but I found the writing difficult to follow at times.Published 2 months ago by JSL
I'd been wanting to find a novel that would compel me enough to draw me away from my usual non-fiction reading, and I found it here. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Pups Castellana
There is some absolutely wonderful stuff in this book, amazing writing, sly dark humor, but it is too long. The second half meanders seriously.Published 5 months ago by ghodge
I enjoyed some of Hilary Mantel's other books but this one... well.... I know the world is full of women who are lost and despairing and slightly messed up and generally depressed. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ocean Girl
Loved it!!! Lyrical, strange, emotional, scary. I'm going to read all of her novels now as this was my first.Published 8 months ago by AlliPoet
Hilary Mantel at her best. Funny, sad, weird. loved itPublished 8 months ago by cheryl A Vanderspurt
Here’s the perfect set-up for a black comedy: an overweight, repressed psychic named Alison must confront her own ghosts—and not just symbolic ghosts, like mere stand-ins of... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Genevieve D.
A relentlessly bleak and dreary muddle. I could see the ghost of a good novel here with the story of an abused child remembering and living with her memories (her demons); but this... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Joseph Balletti
I loved reading this novel. Hilary Mantel is a captivating writer. Although there is a lot of tough stuff in the characters' stories, the character development, the writing, and... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Alisa