Vacant Possession – Hilary Mantel

‘The good thing about being a writer is that you take your bad experiences and make them pay’

I bought this book at a flea market organized by our friends one Saturday in the summer. Partially because I really liked the cover, partially because it was 50p and partially because I have not read anything by Hilary Mantel and somehow the Wolf Hall seemed intimidating. This book on the other hand is very nicely packed at just under 250 pages.

Of course, as it happens with me and series, not knowing it I bought the second book. It is a continuation of Every Day Is Mother’s Day, with the same characters, but taking place ten years later. Muriel Axon has just been released from the mental institution, as a result of introducing Care in the Community programme. Mantel through her characters  shares few interesting thoughts on that issue.

Muriel is back in the community and she develops an amazing ability to mimic other people, becoming completely unrecognizable. If you think she’ll use it to blend in and start new life you are wrong, she wants revenge on all the people who she feels hurt her and took her freedom away. Those she holds most responsible are: Isabel Field, the social worked that worked on her case in the past, and Colin Sidney and his family.

The Sidney family now lives in Muriel’s old house. They are by no means a happy family, their marriage is on the verge of collapse, neither of them happy together and both of them also individually unhappy and trapped in their own lives. Isabel Field is also quite miserable in her life. Now that I think of it there is not a single happy character in this book.

As Muriel works her way into the lives of her victims, she feels deep satisfaction about their misery and also adds her share to make their lives more difficult. Through small and, for her victims, insignificant actions she manages to get exactly what she wanted.

It is an extremely dark book, but also full of sharp wit and black humor. None of the characters is really likable, but Mantel manages to get us to feel for them at least at some point in the book. Her prose flows, but does not overpower the story, both work beautifully together, as the world around our characters falls softly and gently apart.

It was an interesting read, definitely not uplifting one, but very well executed. In the end no one really is as good person as they thought. But we’re also not all evil (just some if us). I now feel tempted to get Every Day is Mother’s DayWolf Hall  still feeling a bit much.

Have you read Wolf Hall? Did you enjoy it?

This is book #18 of my 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746books.
See my list as it grows here.

20-books 2017

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2 thoughts on “Vacant Possession – Hilary Mantel

  1. Pingback: August round-up – bookskeptic.com

  2. Pingback: July round-up – bookskeptic.com

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