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Learning to Talk: Short stories Paperback – 7 Jul 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (7 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007166443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007166442
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 191,242 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.

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Review

'Mercilessly funny' Daily Telegraph

‘Mantel writes with wit, compassion and great elegance.' Independent on Sunday

On ‘Giving Up the Ghost’:

'Like Lorna Sage's BAD BLOOD, GIVING UP THE GHOST is a story of childhood that is also a piece of history. Hilary Mantel's self-portrait is a masterpiece of wit, but it conjures up a time and a place and an epoch of female experience with razor-edged sobriety. That past, so thoroughly vanished, is made to live again here – disclosed, cannily and heartbreakingly, as once it too yielded up its author's mind.' Rachel Cusk

‘What a remarkable writer she is. She is piercingly, even laceratingly observant, and every remembered detail has the sharpness of a good photograph. And yet for all its brilliance of detail and its black comedy the memoir is heavy with atmosphere. It's a very startling and daring memoir; the more I read it the more unsettling it becomes.’ Helen Dunmore

‘I was riveted. It’s raw, it’s distressing and it’s full of piercing insights into a novelist’s mind.’ Margaret Forster

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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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Helen Barnes on 27 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bow to no-one in my admiration of Hilary Mantel. I have re-read several of her books and consider her one of the UK's best living writers. But I didn't like this book. Partly this was because it was unclear whether the stories were fictional or factual, as they seemed to draw so heavily (and directly) on autobiographical material I've already read. And also because (as a result of that) there was little new here. It felt recycled, and was a real disappointment.
The title story was an exception, however, a real gem that had me snorting aloud with laughter on the train.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Bell on 28 Aug. 2003
Format: Paperback
I've been reading this books slowly, story by story, allowing each to reverberate in my mind. Parts, like the elocution lessons and the sense of being different, awake complex memories which in turn interact with the complex layering of the stories themselves.
I don't usually like short stories. Often I dismiss them after reading and turn to something weightier. These are insistent and I won't forget.
These stories put the ordinary experience of being an intelligent, working class child at their centre. (Many people are intelligent; most are consigned to the margins of British society.)
Hilary Mantel is not just intelligent and acutely observant; she may also be the best writer of English prose alive today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 100 REVIEWER on 28 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
The stories in Hilary Mantel's 'Learning to Talk' are, I understand, autobiographically inspired, and in these tales the author revisits her younger years and looks at her past from various different aspects. In the amusing and pertinent title story 'Learning to Talk' we meet our narrator, a young girl, who is sent to elocution lessons in order to modify and possibly rid herself of her northern accent. She tells us that the late sixties was an age of equality and people were not supposed to worry about their accent, but they did, and tried to adapt their voices, otherwise they were treated with "a conscious cheeriness, as if they were...bereaved or slightly deformed." Eventually our narrator learns to modify her voice but, as she tell us, a northerner will never fool anybody "his natural accent goes right through him like 'BLACKPOOL' goes through rock."

In 'Third Floor Rising' our protagonist describes the summer job she takes as a salesgirl in a Manchester department store, Affleck and Brown, where her mother works as a manageress of ladies' fashions. Our narrator describes how her mother creates a whole new identity for herself with her "airy meringue of white blond hair, very tall shoes...wafting across the floor in whatever creation she was wearing that day." She also describes some of her fellow workers as: fiercely corseted, reeking of armpits, with veins bulging through their elastic stockings. Not a pretty sight. When our narrator learns some years later, that the department store has closed and the new occupiers only use the lower floors, but hear ghostly footsteps and voices from the floors above, she feels a coldness and sickness in the pit of her stomach - can she believe this to be true?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 18 Jun. 2013
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Mantel writes like a goddess and for once you do not have to eat through 600 pages ... with fewer pages it's a bit easier to see whats driving her. And, yes, sometimes she want's to please the reader above all. No wonder she has been so phenomenally successful.
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By Maggie on 11 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hilary Mantel Learning to Talk

This slim book of short stories holds the wealth of Hilary Mantel’s ability to draw the reader into every story. It is as if one had lived that life and time, the hurt, cruelty and comedy of everyday in which a machine – Jack’s car in `Curved is the line of beauty’ – is imbued with the defects in character of its owner and some dwellings are permeated with the nastiness and sadness of the residents.

`Straight is the line of duty;
Curved is the line of beauty,
Follow the straight line; thou shalt see
The curved line ever follow thee.’

Whilst evoking laugh aloud moments with her writings such as the `Gesture’ and Miss Webster’s mock crocks in Learning to Talk, Hilary Mantel also writes with undercurrents that strike at the fundamental truths of growing up in England in the second half of the last century; the place that religion, education and family structure played in the well being of each child of the time.

These short stories perhaps bring more intimate memories to the reader than Wolf Hall or Bring up The Bodies, both of which were devoured hungrily by this reviewer.

Hilary Mantel – learning to talk – I loved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frances Green on 3 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As usual Mantel's individual style and story telling leave me turning the pages. A writer of considerable depth and a knowledge of tje human soul she is always true to life and reflective. A good read.
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