An Experiment in Love

Hilary Mantel, Author
Hilary Mantel, Author Henry Holt & Company $23 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8050-4427-0
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996
Release date: 05/01/1996
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7451-2761-3
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-8050-5202-2
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-0-312-42687-3
Hardcover - 978-0-14-024375-8
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4299-0059-1
Hardcover - 7 pages - 978-1-4074-9128-8
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Carmel McBain is a bright Lancashire-Irish child whose mother is fond of telling her, ""your father's not just a clerk, you know""-though, in fact, he is. As Carmel grows up, this snobbish tendency metamorphoses into the brutal driving force of the girl's young life. As a teenager, with ambition bullied into her, she alternates between nights spent locked in her room to study and days filled with the ""routine sarcasms of nuns."" Carmel's move from posh convent to London university is a lonely one; at school, she undergoes a disturbing loss of self-awareness. Between her mother's ruthlessness and the cruelties of the nuns, Carmel's self-worth has been damaged, with near fatal results. Mantel's seventh novel (but only her second to appear here, after A Place of Greater Safety, 1993) is a powerful coming-of-age story that meticulously highlights the patterns of self-inflicted cruelty sometimes taught to young women. It perfectly conveys the confusion of one contemporary Catholic girl, and provides a subtly moving take on the mystery of anorexia nervosa. Despite its grim subject, the writing, replete with sharp humor and evocative details of 1960s England, is never self-indulgent. Irony prevails stoutly over sentimentality, while the finale delivers a surprising twist of horror that will shake readers to the core. (May)
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