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A Change of Climate Paperback – 1 Jul 1997

4.0 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Jul 1997
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Owl Books (NY); Reprint edition (July 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805052054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805052053
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.2 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,214,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Sandra Duncan's beautifully judged narration adds a further dimension' --The Oldie

'The best book she's written… She writes about punishing subjects so freshly it is as if they had never been written about before.' --The Observer

Hilary Mantel has created that rare thing, a page-turner with a profound moral dimension. --The Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Hilary Mantel is the bestselling author of many novels including "Wolf Hall," which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. "Bring Up the Bodies," Book Two of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, was also awarded the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Award. She is also the author of "A Change of Climate," "A Place of Greater Safety," "Eight Months on Ghazzah Street," "An Experiment in Love," "The Giant, O'Brien," "Fludd," "Beyond Black," "Every Day Is Mother's Day," and "Vacant Possession." She has also written a memoir, "Giving Up the Ghost." Mantel was the winner of the Hawthornden Prize, and her reviews and essays have appeared in "The New York Times," "The New York Review of Books," and the "London Review of Books." She lives in England with her husband. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I think this novel is about the omnipresence of cruelty in human relationships, how it is engendered, and how we deal with its consequences. The story pivots on an act of hideous and deliberate cruelty towards a child, which eats like acid into the parent's relationship for years afterwards. But there is also more familiar, sometimes unintentional, cruelty in this book: Ralph is emotionally blackmailed mercilessly by his father Matthew into abandoning his cherished vocation, and Matthew also bullies and terrifies his own wife throughout their marriage. Emma and Felix are casually, unintentionally cruel to Ginny, Felix's wife, for decades. Ralph, who spends his life in charitable works, thoughtlessly exploits Amy Glasse when he is desperate for comfort, and breaks her heart.

People are shown to shy away from the damage cruelty causes to its victims, who endure their wounds mostly in silence. The response of religion, and the welfare state, is non-judgmental and non-emotional, a relentless and demanding support for those in recognised categories of need. "Good souls" help "sad cases". The difficulties and inadequacies of this approach are explored throughout the novel, climaxing in the arrival of the damaged Melanie. She is a child who was sent away for temporary fostering, only to find when she returned home that her personal possessions and clothes had been got rid of and her room used for other purposes - she had been excised from the family by her parents as if she had never existed. Ravaged by drugs, solvent abuse and suicide attempts, she is cared for by Ralph, Anna and Kit with their well-practised professional kindness, although they become increasingly and irritably aware of the futility of such an approach.
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Format: Paperback
When asked, rhetorically, by his sister, "Whatever happened to the dinosaurs?", Ralph, the main character responds, "Their habitat altered...A change of climate." In rebellion against his parents, their closed, religiously fundamentalist point of view, and his father's financial blackmailing regarding his career choices,Ralph intentionally changes his physical habitat and his climate by escaping to South Africa with his bride.
Working as a lay person at a mission and vigorously opposing apartheid, Ralph and Anna, not surprisingly, run afoul of the authorities and are exposed to the savagery which creates a permanent and terrible climate in their marriage. They discover that such savagery is not limited to one race as they had previously supposed. As the story bounces from the present in England back twenty years to Africa, the reader lives through the vivid and terrible African experiences and simultaneously sees how these traumas have permeated the lives of these good, but often naïve, people. As Ralph's uncle James points out, "There is nothing so appallingly the business of being human."
As James grows and eventually embraces life, Anna remains emotionally closed, despite her good deeds, fearful that she "should lose everything, one of these days." As the events resolve themselves and the "competition in goodness" comes to an end, we see real humans trying to put aside the petrified past and to change the climate of their lives. With immense sympathy Mantel creates imperfect characters who try to lead good lives, with varying degrees of success. Mary Whipple
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read this book after my first trip to Norfolk for a holiday, back in 1994. I've re-read it several times, both for its wonderful characters and for Mantel's superb evocations of the bleak but beautiful countryside of North Norfolk and of Southern Africa. As another reviewer has pointed out, this could be a grimly depressing tale, but Mantel's writing is so skilled that she manages to do what the great tragedians do and make tragedy readable and even enjoyable, and not merely sad. She's also clever in giving one a sense of hope at the end of the story. There are some wonderful characters in this book, from Anna Eldred, who breaks away from her repressive limited parents to follow her husband Ralph to South Africa, makes a new life with him there but is powerless against first apartheid and then the viciousness of a local man who she offends, Emma her unconventional sister-in-law, sleeping with the married local estate agent in Norfolk (her former childhood sweetheart), Kit, Anna and Ralph's daughter and Daniel, the son of Emma's lover, determined that history won't repeat itself, Amy and Sandra, the strange and compelling peasant-like mother and daughter who attract two of the men in the Eldred family, and many more. Mantel has many wise things to say about charity, about the role of religion in society, and about human love. And if Ralph, one of the central characters may appear at times a rather selfish man, Mantel explains perfectly why this may have come about, and invites us to sympathize with him and understand him. A haunting book which will leave you thinking for a long time after completing it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I’m a massive fan of Hilary Mantel’s work and am assiduously working my way through everything she’s published - so far I haven’t been disappointed.
This is not a book like ‘Wolf Hall’ and those hoping for a repeat won’t find it here. What is here, as in all her books, is a quality of writing that is rare, a clarity that is beautifully crafted, a mastery of words, characterisation and situations that is skilful and subtle. Mantel is a brilliant storyteller.
Ralph and Anna Eldred raise their children in an atmosphere of doing good and charity, helping the ‘good souls and sad cases’ that come their way. But their good deeds hide a secret that is eating away at them and at their relationship; a secret tragedy from their time as missionaries in South Africa, a tragedy that threatens the stability, faith and peace that they have striven to provide for their children and for those other waifs and strays that they welcome into The Red House.
The tragedy (the nature of which is not revealed until fairly far on in the book) creates fissures between them that spread out though their family and friends. And when their son falls in love with local girl Sandra, Ralph also sees an opportunity for happiness, or at least for forgetting. However, his actions bring all the resentments, grief and sadness that has been hidden away to the surface and the family finds itself at crisis point.
The characters in this book are portrayed with huge sympathy - Mantel has a real knack of getting right under her characters’ skins. The everyday is drawn as skilfully as the unusual, with both Norfolk and South Africa coming to life - the claustrophobia of a dismal, drab rainy England as real as the oppressive heat of an African day.
Different to Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, but just as wonderful.
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