Customer Reviews


29 Reviews
5 star:
 (11)
4 star:
 (9)
3 star:
 (7)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaves you wanting more
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...
Published on 14 May 2003

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but slightly lacklustre
For a large part of this book I found myself wanting more from it. It is vivid and well written, and narrator Carmel's childhood (which is given much more attention than her university years) is presented in such skillfully constructed detail that it feels incredibly real. However, a great proportion of the narrative feels like back-story, so for most of it I felt like I...
Published 9 months ago by LilacLemon


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaves you wanting more, 14 May 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: An Experiment in Love (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Carmel and Karina, 18 Sep 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: An Experiment in Love (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Unsentimental Education, 12 Sep 2011
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: An Experiment in Love (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. I couldn't really believe that Karina would be quite so evil or do such a dramatic action as Mantel had her do - I got the feeling that the final scene was really put in because Mantel wasn't quite sure how to end her book, and needed a 'cleansing' image. It seemed slightly out of kilter with the rest of the narrative, which was so thoughtful and intelligent - a sudden move into melodrama. We were also left with a lot of unanswered questions, about who Karina's boyfriend had been, what happened to Carmel in between her university days and when we see her as an adult, why she lost touch with Julianne (who renames herself Julia)and who Carmel eventually married. A slightly longer, slightly gentler end to the book might have been good. This being said, I still return to this book regularly with great enjoyment and have read it several times.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good experience, 8 Nov 2012
This review is from: An Experiment in Love (Paperback)
I felt that the most important or interesting part of this book is the riveting account of a group of young women making sense of the world on the cusp of the social revolutions of the of the late 1960's/70's. The descriptions of their early years are shown as central in shaping the people they would become in the era of alleged possibilities for women. The self-consciousness of these girls as they negotiate family life, education, fashion, religious ideology and the opposite sex as well as each other was so insightful and something I totally related to having been brought up myself in the same era and in a similar way. The writing style is deceptively simple and the dialogue excellent. I enjoyed the first half best. I wish that the book had been longer and so had time to develop these relationships at a sustained pace. This book is almost a social history for a particular set of girls at a particular point in time. Mantel's ability to remember details and describe them so well and naturally is amazing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to the future, 22 Jun 2012
By 
Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: An Experiment in Love (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. Hurray, she luckily has enough self-confidence to quickly swap rooming arrangements to avoid sharing with Karina. She later sloughs off her family by default; her ghastly mother loses her grip at such a distance.

We are then in the territory of young women students grouped together experiencing fears, physical, emotional and financial. Emerging from the chrysalis of girlhood into what they would become. Doctor Julia, Christian Claire. Life in the Hall is written pin sharp, I actually think I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Thatcher in an earlier life, as a visiting guest.

The girls are kept busy helping, advising, and looking after each other; this is, apart from Karina. She only looks after herself. Lovely Lynette has to deal with her - and she does so with great style and sympathy. How she is rewarded for that provides the final flourish, one, which changes the whole premise of the book and shocks to the core. You really can't believe what you've just read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for Thought, 25 Jun 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: An Experiment in Love (Paperback)
This is my favourite among Hilary Mantel's books. It will strike a special chord with women brought up in the 60s and 70s in England. The themes of education versus hormones and indulgence versus repression are woven through the book in a very interesting way. It is not always an easy read, and I sometimes wish that we had more explicit information about the characters' motivations (particularly Karina's) - but I think it's that slightly mysterious quality that has made me re-read it several times.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but slightly lacklustre, 2 Mar 2014
This review is from: An Experiment in Love (Paperback)
For a large part of this book I found myself wanting more from it. It is vivid and well written, and narrator Carmel's childhood (which is given much more attention than her university years) is presented in such skillfully constructed detail that it feels incredibly real. However, a great proportion of the narrative feels like back-story, so for most of it I felt like I was waiting for the core plot to begin, and when I finished reading I struggled to grasp what the core plot actually was. I appreciate that this is a novel of subtlety, but the surprising melodrama of the ending came as something of a relief because it seemed that all of the book's reminiscing had to be leading somewhere. I found 'An Experiment in Love' to be a relatively enjoyable novel, but it paints a rather bleak and uninspiring picture of the life of young women in the 70s, is a little reductive regarding the issue of anorexia and leaves the reader with a lot of unanswered questions.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read, 17 Dec 2013
This review is from: An Experiment in Love (Paperback)
We follow three girls through their schooldays and onwards to university, with no plot but rather something of an autobiographical feel, though the author says it isn't really true, and the unexpectedly dramatic ending rather confirms this. But even so, it's obviously based on the author's own experiences to some extent.
Although I picked this novel because of the author's name, I can make no comparison between it and her better-known Booker winners, not having read them, but I have a feeling that this must be altogether lighter and easier going. It pre-dates Wolf Hall and I suspect was re-issued on the strength of her new-found fame, and as such it was a pleasant surprise to find that it is actually pretty good; an enjoyable and amusing read, though not beyond criticism, by any means.
For one thing, the narrator has a habit of flitting back and forth in time, from recollections of secondary school and then back to primary and forward again to late teens, and so on, though it's not as confusing as this sounds, because the girls don't change that much, which might be the point she's making.
I have a fondness for these coming-of-age/bildungsroman type stories, and this one reminds me very much of Jeanette Winterson's `Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit'; the same mix of humour, religion, domineering mother/weak father, and growing up in a Lancashire town in the 1960s/70s. Also shades of Antonia White's `Frost In May', especially the convent schooling and the strict nuns.
Worth reading, anyway; three-and-a-half stars, to be fair.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very impressive novel, 19 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: An Experiment in Love (Paperback)
Hugely perceptive - writing brilliant - every word counts. Wonderfully convincing evocation of the period. One of her best novels, I think.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Drawn out, tedious but rewarding in the end., 3 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I read other reviews and ordered this book with high hopes, which I held on to page after page. Half way through, I was tempted to just give up. The writing style is very descriptive but in a way that made me silently wish she'd just " get on with it."
Subject matter that would normally allow for increased pace (pregnancy, sex, break-ups) were dully marched through in the same tone the author uses to describe (time after time after time) the unappetising Halls of Residence cuisine. The literay equivalent of being only semi-conscious or watching a film with the sound turned down so that it's only just frustratingly audible, I found this book unengaging until the surprising climax, when empathy finally poured forth.
It was a long wait, however, but ultimately worth it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

An Experiment in Love
An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel (Paperback - 4 Mar 2010)
£7.19
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews