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Beyond Black [Paperback]

Hilary Mantel
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

4 Mar 2010

A comically sinister tale of wicked spirits and suburban mediums from the Man Booker Prize-winning author of ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’.

Alison Hart, a medium by trade, tours the dormitory towns of London’s orbital ring road with her flint-hearted sidekick, Colette, passing on messages from beloved dead ancestors. But behind her plump, smiling persona hides a desperate woman: she knows the terrors the next life holds but must conceal them from her wide-eyed clients. At the same time she is plagued by spirits from her own past, who infiltrate her body and home, becoming stronger and nastier the more she resists…

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Hilary Mantel’s supremely suspenseful novel is a masterpiece of dark humour and even darker secrets.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; paperback / softcover edition (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007157762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007157761
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More 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.

Product Description


‘Magnificent…It’s one of the greatest ghost stories in the language, but it’s far more than just a ghost story – it’s a novel of desperate truthfulness – a majestic work, truly.’ Philip Pullman

‘Sparkling, sinister and supremely original.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘As black as a tar barrel and very, very funny.’ The Times

‘Laceratingly observant, a masterpiece of wit, heavy with atmosphere. It is also gloriously insolent and slyly funny: full of robust, uncluttered prose and searing moments.' Independent

‘Pins elusive Middle England to the page in all its creepiness: a place blank and disconnected, yet fatally self-absorbed.’ Rachel Cooke, Observer

‘An elegant, atmospheric tale and a nuanced portrait, full of ironies.’ Tatler

'Chilling, creepy and endlessly inventive.' Kate Saunders, The Times

‘Hilary Mantel has done something extraordinary. She has taken the ethereal halfway house between heaven and hell, between the living and the dead, and nailed it on the page.’ Fay Weldon, Guardian

‘Has the kind of gallows humour that makes you laugh out loud…A real page-turner, a darkly humorous take on the enduring effects of childhood trauma.’ Mslexia

'A deep, disturbing, violently amusing and subversive work.’ Daily Telegraph

From the Back Cover

Alison Hart is a medium by trade: dead people talk to her, and she talks back. With her flat-eyed, flint-hearted sidekick, Colette, she tours the dormitory towns of London's orbital road, passing on messages from dead ancestors: 'Granny says she likes your new kitchen units.'

Alison's ability to communicate with spirits is a torment rather than a gift. Behind her plump, smiling and bland public persona is a desperate woman. She knows that the next life holds terrors that she must conceal from her clients. Her days and nights are haunted by the men she knew in her childhood, the thugs and petty criminals who preyed upon her hopeless, addled mother, Emmie. They infiltrate her house, her body and her soul; the more she tries to be rid of them, the stronger and nastier they become.

This tenth novel by Hilary Mantel, the critically acclaimed author of Giving Up the Ghost, is a witty and deeply sinister story of dark secrets and dark forces, set in an England that jumps at its own shadow, a country whose banal self-absorption is shot through by fear of the engulfing dark.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
171 of 177 people found the following review helpful
I bought this book after much deliberation - All the papers loved it - but most of the reviews I read on this site were less than favourable. I decided to make my own mind up.

The plot of this book concerns Alison, a gifted but troubled psychic, with a horrific past - touring lacklustre psychic fairs on the ring road around London, offering comfort to the bereaved, passing on messages from the departed - All the while, coming to terms with her squalid, abusive upbringing and dreadful treatment at the hands of her prostitute mother and the squaddies and lowlifes who populated her early life and still torment her after their passing. Morris, her seedy spirit guide, is her departed link to the past she would rather forget.

Colette, her thorny assistant - plays a major part, sceptical and indifferent to her spectral tormentors - she grounds Alison firmly in reality with diets, timetables and a complete lack of sympathy. A host of sardonically characterised mediums and mystics give some comic relief and balance the intense horror of her childhood.

The key to this book is that it's not a thriller or a ghost story - its a beautifully written tale of facing up to your demons - alive or dead, Mantel writes with confidence and her prose is, at times, breathtaking. Her characters are well observed and she breathes life into the dead - Morris and his cronies are believable - horrible small time crooks, with nothing to talk about but the old days and why they can't get a good savaloy anymore. You also realise that the world that Alison inhabits is as dead as the one she can tap into.

My only criticism is a slightly slow 3rd quarter - that being said, once you read the last page, you will miss Alison - you might even miss Morris.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bleak and funny 18 Jun 2010
Reading the other reviews, I can understand why some people are disappointed in this book - the cover implies it is a ghost story and if that's why they bought it, then it won't satisfy them. There are ghosts in the book, lots of them, but it's not their ghostiness that is drawn out, but the dreariness of spending eternity wandering in limbo with a crowd of other mardy spirits. The main character spends her life circling London's insalubrious dormitory towns, night after night spent in Travelodge-type hotels with only her abrasive assistant and revolting spirit guide for company. And she knows that there's nothing to look forward to after death either. It's very funny, but in a way that makes you shiver slightly too and really hope Mantel is wrong!

It's not about ghosts, it's about living people and how we get on, or not, in the world.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Begins in Potters Bar and ends in unholy chaos 25 Aug 2010
There is a whole universe of people who spend their lives on or near the main arteries of our infrastructure - in motels, service areas, industrial estates and new towns. This book tells the story of two such people, Alison and Colette. Alison is a medium, making her living in a slightly dingy way by speaking to the dead and hearing what they have to say, in small venues, before small audiences. Colette is her assistant. The story explores their relationship, and it is a captivating, riveting read. But the story beneath the surface is one that grips the reader even more: Alison's personal world of ghosts, assorted dead losers, and sinister entities is as real to her as living people are to you and me. These beings accompany her almost everywhere, disturb her sleep, and bring her troubled childhood to the fore at every opportunity. To me it doesn't much matter what actually happens in this story, but instead the wonderful way Mantel weaves the extraordinary and weird into the ordinary lives of her characters. My abiding memory is of having a lot of sympathy and admiration for the character of Alison the medium, battling with unforgiving crowds at her nightly shows, and battling with her own personal demons ("fiends" as she calls them) the rest of the time. Well worth a read.
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63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Literature 6 Sep 2006
I really enjoyed this book as, unlike so many these days, it had depth and something to sink my teeth into. The reviews here are disappointing and I wanted to give another view. There were points during this book that were laugh out loud funny, as well as very, very sad. Alison is a wonderful character who struggles with what life has thrown at her. She is seeking to remember her past traumas and come to terms with her reality. Colette has hidden depths, but cannot find the heart to find out what they are. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well-written and well-planned novel, not just to those who have a vested interest in the 'mystical.' Heart-warming and touching. I was truly sorry to leave Alison behind
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Creepy and inventive 16 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Alison is a medium who earns her living by taking part in psychic fairs along with a sundry group of other practitioners. She is overweight and outwardly confident but she is soon revealed to be surrounded by spirits of men from her childhood. These all seem to be malevolent and a sad, abusive and neglected childhood is gradually revealed. She is joined by Colette, a rational and controlling woman, and a love-hate relationship ensues.

The writing is terrific. Alison's past is shocking and the book is very dark in parts, contrasting sharply with the humour which is frequently "laugh out loud" funny. Even though the subject matter is not one that I would usually care for I found I was swept along by the narrative and in particular by the relationship between the two women and the other psychics.

It is creepy and inventive but not sure if I actually enjoyed it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
HM has such a range, every one a winner, I need to force myself to read other authors.
Published 18 days ago by C. Radford
4.0 out of 5 stars Srange
Very strange intreging book
Published 18 days ago by kenneth robinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Wonderful writer good service from amazon as usual
Published 19 days ago by Yvonne Webb
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good read
Published 1 month ago by AndyT
3.0 out of 5 stars ... me by a client as she thought I would enjoy reading about the life...
This was suggested to me by a client as she thought I would enjoy reading about the life of a medium. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Angie Grainger ( Author of Searching for Mooneyes)
1.0 out of 5 stars I would give this 0 stars if I could.
Absolutely one of the worst things I have ever read. Inconsistent characters who are unlink able and dull. No plot. No atmosphere. Just terrible.
Published 2 months ago by reader
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read
The reason that Hilary Mantel has won a bucket load of awards is pretty obvious when you read her stuff.
Published 2 months ago by Robert A Byrne
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring from start to finish with unlikable characters . . .
I read this after it being recommended to me as being dark and about the paranormal which I do enjoy. Read more
Published 4 months ago by EarlySBFan
2.0 out of 5 stars Expected more from it, despite the reviews
Having enjoyed Wolfe Hall and Bring up the Bodies so much I was looking for another title by Hillary Mantel. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Diane Burke
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond brilliant
Hilary Mantel is probably my favourite writer of all - largely because she writes both male and female characters totally convincingly, her dialogue is perfectly done, her... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Dymphna
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