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An Experiment in Love Paperback – 4 Mar 2010

4 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (4 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007172885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007172887
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 197,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘The most powerful of her novels, a near-faultless masterpiece of pathos, observation and feeling … She writes like an angel.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Hilary Mantel is a wonderfully unsurprised dissector of human motivation, and in An Experiment in Love she has written a bleak tale seamed with crackling wit.’ Helen Dunmore, Observer

‘Funny, tragic and wondefully perceptive, this is a book to be treasured, for the sheer quality of its writing and for its honesty.’ Independent

‘Mantel writes prose of imperturbable aplomp, crisp with irony and highlighted with deftly places, elegantly surprising images … she has a penchant for caustic, spiky heroines and a sardonic ear for dialogue.’ Sunday Times

‘My favourite novel of the year: An Experiment in Love is written with subtle perceptiveness, sharp wit and canny wisdom’ Margaret Forster, Independent

‘Cool unsentimental, and unassumingly authoritative.’ Anita Brookner, Spectator

‘The time is 1970, and it is wonderfully well evoked … The skill with which Mantel manages her time-shifts, the precision of her writing, the acuteness of her observations, the seriousness of her themes, and the way in which she weaves them into a coherant whole, make this an unusually satisfying novel.’ Allan Massie, Scotsman

‘An Experiment in Love has much to say about its turbulant era, and is replete with the atmosphere of the cusp, with the prospect of irreversible change … It is also a profoundly sad novel, to which Mantel’s liberal sense of comedy and dazzling acuity for metaphor add an almost excruciating flavour.’ Rachel Cusk, The Times

About the Author

Hilary Mantel is the author of thirteen books , including A PLACE OF GREATER SAFETY, BEYOND BLACK, and the memoir GIVING UP THE GHOST. Her two most recent novels, WOLF HALL and its sequel BRING UP THE BODIES have both been awarded The Man Booker Prize – an unprecedented achievement.

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 14 May 2003
Format: Paperback
Like the starving heroine, I was left wanting more by this enigmatic but excellent book. In an antidote to the usual "take three girls" formula, we follow the school and university careers of Carmel, Karina and Julianne, three pupils from a northern convent who all end up in the same grim University residence in London. Without ever becoming friends or understanding each other, the girls are thrown together into a penny-pinching student existence in their all-female enclave, playing out an ultimately tragic tale of envy, competition, appetite and self-denial.
The author obviously feels there is great injustice in the lives of these girls, and this gives her always excellent writing a particular energy. The flashbacks to the girls' schooldays, and the relationships between Carmel and Karina and their mothers, are particularly well done.
More than just a story, this book explores the broader themes of girls' education and ambitions, and how they can be thwarted both by society and by nature. Although the ending is downright strange and I really wanted to know more about some of the characters' motivations, I found this to be a truly original and compelling book.
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By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
Carmel is an ordinary little Catholic girl from a Lancashire mill-town when this novel opens. Her strong-willed mother has decided that she will be a friend to Karina, whose strange European mother and taciturn father mutter about cattle trucks. Karina is not ordinary. She has no gift for friendship and the relationship is something of a trial to Carmel. By the time they attend big school Carmel has moved on and begun making friends with more interesting girls. It is one of these, Julia, that she rooms with in the hostel that is the main setting when they get to University. Karina goes too, but lives a curiously self-sufficient and separate life from that of her peers. The one shocking act at the end brings Carmel's past relationship with Karina into focus once again. She now knows two very important things about Karina - but neither of them can be told to anyone else.

This is both a tragedy and a comedy. Mantel is very prescient about girls and their friendships, and about girls and their boys. There is much to enjoy in these pages and I found myself disappointed that this novel wasn't longer. Like her novel Beyond Black, this one too creates some wonderful characters, and in common with that novel it ends at a point that might also be a beginning. Her gift for storytelling is so strong that her created lives go on after the book has finished.
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By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
A sometimes very funny, sometimes horribly poignant tale of a girl from working-class Lancashire trying to make her way as a law student at London University while haunted by her past, her memories of her parents' unhappy marriage and her experiences at convent school, and by a former schoolmate, Karina, who has followed her to London, moved into her hall of residence and constantly reminds her that she cannot break away totally from her past life. Mantel brings the claustrophobic life in a women's hall of residence vividly to life, and there are some memorable characters, ranging from the heroine Carmel's friend from convent school Julianne, a clever and sardonic girl from a wealthy background who can't really understand Carmel's poverty to the lovely, aristocratic Lynette, daughter of East European emigres (as is Karina, though Karina won't discuss this aspect of her past), the fanatically Christian Claire who turns out at heart to be a deeply good person despite her foolish side, and the dread Karina, sullen, silent, brooding vengefully. Mantel's descriptions of some aspects of university life (such as the student Labour club) and the awful institutional meals were hilarious. Coupled with this humour were some heartbreaking episodes: Carmel's growing anorexia, and the collapse of her relationship with her boyfriend, her accounts of her schooldays and the bullying she underwent at the hands of her mother, and her constant worries about money.

My only problem with the book was that the final scene almost felt tacked on from another novel.
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By Katharine Kirby TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
First published in the mid nineties, An Experiment in Love, is an acutely touching, beautifully written earlier work of the hugely acclaimed travel, fiction and especially well known as historical writer Hilary Mantel. Her descriptive powers are legend.

This is the story of Lancashire convent girl Carmel, dominated by a truly terrifying mother who famously `ran on wrath', an epithet which I think also applies to many post war women. As a school girl Carmel is condemned by proximity to befriend the chillingly self contained, sneering Karina, a stolid peasant like émigré from the Eastern Bloc whose chief purpose is to put others down and generally suck the life and soul out of all around.

Carmel observes her own life with an exquisitely wry humour. Her hen pecked beaten father with his jigsaw puzzles, model aeroplanes and cowed habits. Her own body and the trials she puts it through. Throughout, Carmel's phrases sing out and grip with recognisable reality. I loved her solemnly thinking: "My mother had heard this term `Oxbridge' and had begun to use it, and it was making me uneasy. I was afraid she thought it was a real place; when the time came, Oxford or Cambridge would not be good enough, only Oxbridge would be good enough for a daughter of hers." It can truly be wonderfully funny. I felt very much at home with the hierarchy, etiquette and snobbery, as I was a girl in the fifties/sixties too.

Karina glooms around Carmel throughout her schooling and even appears at the same `Tonbridge' University Hall, in London. Carmel chooses to study law; she is surprisingly determined and strong by then, even having a serious boyfriend at Glasgow University.
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