From Publishers Weekly
Instead of celebrating the mystical side of "sensitives," the people who travel England's contemporary psychic "fayre" circuit, Mantel (A Change of Climate
, etc.) concentrates on the potential banality of spiritualism in her latest novel, a no-nonsense exploration of the world of public and private clairvoyance. Colette is a down-on-her-luck event planner fresh from a divorce when she attends a two-day Psychic Extravaganza, her "introduction to the metaphorical side of life." There, Alison, a true clairvoyant, "reads" Colette, sees her need for a new life—as well as her potential—and hires her as a Girl Friday. As Colette's responsibilities grow, and the line between the professional and the personal blurs, Colette takes over Alison's marketing, builds her Web site, plans for a book and buys a house with her. Colette also serves as a sort of buffer between Alison and the multitude of spirits who beleaguer her. (Alison's spirit guide, Morris, "a little bouncing circus clown," proves especially troublesome.) Mantel's portraits of the two leading characters as well as those of the supporting cast—both on and off this mortal coil—are sharply drawn. This witty, matter-of-fact look at the psychic milieu reveals a supernatural world that can be as mundane as the world of carpet salesmen and shopkeepers. (May)
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is just thatso black it reaches beyond the dark and makes the unbelievable believable. A story that normalizes clairvoyance shouldnt work this well, but it does. Mantel discussed her own experiences with illness and ghosts in her memoir Giving Up the Ghost
(2003), but this novel is pure fiction. A seedy sideshow of ghosts (at turns helpful, annoying, and evil), all-too-human characters, a British brand of humor, shrewd commentary on the state of the world, and rich prose make for convincing, if not always agreeable, reading. Although Alisons flashbacks never emerge clearly, they create some of the novels most painful scenes.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.