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Publisher's Summary

Opening with "A Second Home", in which Mantel describes the death of her stepfather, Giving Up the Ghost is a wry, shocking, and beautifully written memoir of childhood, ghosts (real and metaphorical), illness, and family. Finally, at the memoir's conclusion, Mantel explains how a series of medical misunderstandings and neglect left her childless, and how the ghosts of the unborn have come to haunt her life as a writer.

©2003 Hilary Mantel (P)2012 W F Howes Ltd

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  • Jenny
  • Woodlands, Australia
  • 09-23-13

Her Grief Observed

What made the experience of listening to Giving Up the Ghost the most enjoyable?

The anecdotes from the life of Hilary Mantel that are then reflected upon by the author and placed into the context of her whole life. It is a complex book, but there is a simplicity about it that is very graceful.

What other book might you compare Giving Up the Ghost to and why?

Clearly, by my plagiarism of his title, C S Lewis' book, ' a Grief Observed'. Although Lewis is writing about the death of his wife, and his responses to it; and Mantel is writing about her never-born child, to me they are very synchronistic in their integrity and openness.<br/><br/> I did not think either wrote of raw pain, but rather of observed pain. They were able to experience and then describe an internal feeling.

Have you listened to any of Jane Wymark’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, I have watched innumerable 'Midsomer Murders' though. <br/><br/>In this book, I found her voice sympathetic and expressive. It told the story without being in any way obtrusive to it.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I do not think this could be made into a film. It is too intimate and inward looking. The actual story of the author's life is not remarkable and would not really make for good watching. <br/><br/>What is remarkable is how Hilary Mantel focusses on her emotional responses to the events of her life - and that is something that can only be presented in words, not pictures.

Any additional comments?

The book is complex and rewarding. It is short and beautifully crafted. <br/><br/>I think it speaks to all of us, as each one of us has had a deep loss at sometime in our lives.<br/><br/>It is important to say that such a complex book will not satisfy in a single listening/reading. There is too much in it to take in. However given its brevity it is easy to listen to a 2nd and even a 3rd time with as much interest in it as was there the 1st time.<br/><br/>

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slow start, wonderful middle and end.

For the first part of this book I had two very strong opinions - I was impressed by how beautifully it is written, but even the best writer must have something interesting to say and I just wasn't grabbed by any of the anecdotes and incidents from Hilary's childhood. But by the time she started university I was captivated, and her experiences with the medical profession are heart-breaking and recounted with such honesty I was fascinated and felt very privileged to be witness to everything she had gone through. The middle and end made up for the beginning so, overall I'm very glad I stayed with it.

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  • Earnest
  • 11-12-14

Acerbic but nice

What did you like most about Giving Up the Ghost?

The author's fiercely loud and beautiful use of words. They fight brilliantly with and for a hard life.

What did you like best about this story?

It is a prismatic, not " true" version of a life in depth..but of enormous value in breaking the ice in the ocean surrounding one's own life.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Jane Wymark?

Sorry, but it is over acted..a terrible no, no in a memoir of significance. The person who read Mantel's short stories was more realistic in her approach.

Any additional comments?

Listen to this and enjoy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Maddy
  • 06-04-14

A stunningly crafted memoir

An often painful listen as Hilary Mantel describes a life determined by her parents' separation and life with a stepfather and then by what can only be called medical negligence and bad practice, a state of affairs not uncommon in the 60s and 70s, channelling her into the superb writer she has become. Woven through is also the sense that the boundaries between worlds and people are not as solid for her as they are for most of us. Beautifully structured and written. Highly recommended.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Twinklyjan
  • 09-05-17

Cheerfully sad

One often reads about the suffering of a genius. While it is difficult to hear the story of Hilary Mantel's suffering, she is clearly a genius. Her childhood is beautifully and cleverly told and the narrator is particularly excellent at this. It was a lovely ending too. I've never read any of her novels but am a fan now and have already purchased Wolf Hall.

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  • Alan Coady
  • 08-25-16

Submission brings strength

If you could sum up Giving Up the Ghost in three words, what would they be?

Darkly, personal humour.

What did you like best about this story?

Although the memoir describes loss of various kinds, there is not a gram of self-pity. Rather, there is a seam of dark humour throughout which narrator, Jane Wymark nailed impressively. I almost had the feeling that she must know Mantel very well.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

i enjoyed depictions of Mantel's young life and imaginings, such as her becoming a steed-mounted, sword-weilding knight. The writing is extremely skilful so that the prose seems to match the age being described. I don't mean to suggest that the writing describing the 9-yr-old Mantel had only the ability of a 9-yr-old's writing but rather the odd perceptions and conflations of life's experiences and motivations which characterise the young.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Giving up ghosts is not easy but clearly possible.

Any additional comments?

This is definitely one to revisit.

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  • Dr L.
  • 10-22-15

Touched by another's experience

Very special. I know what she is writing about. Sensitive, humorous; dry, sardonic. Full of quintessential capturing.

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  • Ozpiper
  • 08-30-15

Excellent!

Full, frank and quite inspirational. Altogether human - written and read with her heart wide open

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  • S.A.M
  • 07-11-15

A Remarkable Book

Loved this book. The Author has not forgotten what it is like to be child. She writes so well about her observations and understandings as a child while practicing the art of behaving as adults expect. Parts are funny. Her medical history is appalling and arouses enormous sympathy. Although she takes some responsibility on herself for the lack of diagnosis she really shouldn't. However, if she hadn't suffered so much we may not have had the wonderful author of to day but have been admiring from afar a very able barrister! Many more lives are touched as a result of her shaming medical treatment.

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  • Rev. Lesley Edwards
  • 12-12-14

'ilary leaves a lot of unanswered questions

Would you listen to Giving Up the Ghost again? Why?

yes, because it is well written and something big kept happening and I seemed to miss quite how we got there.

What did you like best about this story?

The way it was written

Have you listened to any of Jane Wymark’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No. But I liked Jane's voice; she could have been Hilary reading her own work. Just a couple of places where I felt she missed the emotion or irony behind the text.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

N/A

Any additional comments?

This autobiography was well written, as one would expect from Hilary Mantel. She tells a detailed account of moving to her new home, whilst recalling her life story. She spends a long time writing of herself as a small child but her adult life leaves many unanswered questions with her writers hook of tantalising you with the information she chooses to hold back. It seems bad health has dogged her life and formed and shaped her choices. I thought her brave in recalling her experience in a mental institution. A good book, which I very much enjoyed listening to.

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  • Flint
  • 12-08-14

Disappointing

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Plenty, it was not an easy listen. I tried to persist with it but after several attempts I gave up.

Would you ever listen to anything by Hilary Mantel again?

Perhaps but it wouldn't be my first choice

What about Jane Wymark’s performance did you like?

Maybe if she was reading the work of a different author

If this book were a film would you go see it?

No

Any additional comments?

I wish I hadn't bought this book