Beyond Black: A Novel

Beyond Black: A Novel

4.0 12
by Hilary Mantel
     
 

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Hailed as a "writer of subtlety and depth," Hilary Mantel turns her dark genius on the world of psychics in this smart, unsettling novel (Joyce Carol Oates)

A paragon of efficiency, Colette took the next natural step after finishing secretarial school by marrying a man who would do just fine. After a sobering, do-it-yourself divorce, Colette is at a

Overview

Hailed as a "writer of subtlety and depth," Hilary Mantel turns her dark genius on the world of psychics in this smart, unsettling novel (Joyce Carol Oates)

A paragon of efficiency, Colette took the next natural step after finishing secretarial school by marrying a man who would do just fine. After a sobering, do-it-yourself divorce, Colette is at a loss for what to do next. Convinced that she is due an out-of-hand, life-affirming revelation, she strays into the realm of psychics and clairvoyants, hungry for a whisper to set her off in the right direction. At a psychic fair in Windsor she meets the charismatic Alison.

Alison, the daughter of a prostitute, beleaguered during her childhood by the pressures of her connection to the spiritual world, lives in a different kind of solitude. She cannot escape the dead who speak to her, least of all the constant presence of Morris, her low-life spiritual guide. An expansive presence onstage, Alison at once feels her bond with Colette, inviting her to join her on the road as her personal assistant and companion.

Troubles spiral out of control when the pair moves to a suburban wasteland in what was once the English countryside and take up with a spirit guide and his drowned therapist. It is not long before Alison's connection to the place beyond black threatens to uproot their lives forever. This is Hilary Mantel at her finest- insightful, darkly comic, unorthodox, and thrilling to read.

Editorial Reviews

Terrence Rafferty
This is a dark, dark book, but it's fun to read because at heart it's a celebration of the joys of saying exactly what's on your evil little mind. The heroine might be speaking for the author when she tries to explain to Colette why the hideous Morris is her guide, and why the fiends have come to call: ''Ever since I was a little kid,'' she says, ''I've been trying to have nice thoughts. But how could I? My head was stuffed with memories. I can't help what's in there. . . . And so when you have certain thoughts -- thoughts you can't help -- these sort of spirits come rushing round. And you can't dislodge them. Not unless you could get the inside of your head hoovered out.'' That's the distinctive voice of Hilary Mantel, building from a soft, polite whisper to an explosively funny image -- the comic metaphor that makes life, if not worth living, at least worth writing.
— The New York Times
Meg Wolitzer
Hilary Mantel's Beyond Black is an acquired taste, and I have acquired it. The novel is original and deeply dark, but as one interpretation of its title suggests, the author tries hard to push herself past the stark grimness of the world she describes and take the reader somewhere new and compelling.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Instead of celebrating the mystical side of "sensitives," the people who travel England's contemporary psychic "fayre" circuit, Mantel (A Change of Climate, etc.) concentrates on the potential banality of spiritualism in her latest novel, a no-nonsense exploration of the world of public and private clairvoyance. Colette is a down-on-her-luck event planner fresh from a divorce when she attends a two-day Psychic Extravaganza, her "introduction to the metaphorical side of life." There, Alison, a true clairvoyant, "reads" Colette, sees her need for a new life-as well as her potential-and hires her as a Girl Friday. As Colette's responsibilities grow, and the line between the professional and the personal blurs, Colette takes over Alison's marketing, builds her Web site, plans for a book and buys a house with her. Colette also serves as a sort of buffer between Alison and the multitude of spirits who beleaguer her. (Alison's spirit guide, Morris, "a little bouncing circus clown," proves especially troublesome.) Mantel's portraits of the two leading characters as well as those of the supporting cast-both on and off this mortal coil-are sharply drawn. This witty, matter-of-fact look at the psychic milieu reveals a supernatural world that can be as mundane as the world of carpet salesmen and shopkeepers. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Unpleasant and meddling dead people litter the landscape around a very sweet medium whose past would frighten anyone to death. The mark of a great novelist may be the ability to take you where you truly don't want to go. If so, Mantel (Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir, 2003; Fludd, 2000, etc.) is the real goods. Who, without some sort of artistic seduction, would willingly go into the mind of an obese English psychic whose tortured childhood makes the worst of Dickens look like a cakewalk? Mantel's lure into this dark trip is the carefully won charm of psychic Alison "Al" Hart, a sunny-tempered "sensitive" who has had to tolerate the constant presence underfoot of Morris, her repulsive spirit guide. Morris, who is linked to Al's evil childhood surroundings, hangs around her dressing room, invisible to the "insensitive" as Alison works the crummy theaters and meeting halls where she and her colleagues bring whitewashed glimpses of the postmortem other side (nobody wnts to hear how confused and unhappy the dead really are) to England's lower middle classes. In the years since the appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet brought unimagined looniness onto the world scene, Al has benefited from the no-nonsense assistance of Colette, an erstwhile events manager in flight from a loveless marriage. Colette's keen business sense has put Al's finances in such order that there is enough money for the odd couple to buy the largest model of house in a new subdivision that is so devoid of charm or past that Morris, very much a city lad when he was alive, finally leaves the two women alone for a period of peace. Relative peace. Alison is never without reminders of not just her special abilities but of theincidents in her childhood that scarred her brutally, inside and out. Voices of the dead turn up on Al's taped memoirs, and then her old torturers turn up in the subdivision, following orders from Lucifer. Superbly odd, but still superb.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429900638
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/18/2006
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
187,155
File size:
750 KB

Read an Excerpt


Beyond Black
oneTravelling: the dank oily days after Christmas. The motorway, its wastes looping London: the margin's scrub grass flaring orange in the lights, and the leaves of the poisoned shrubs striped yellow-green like a cantaloupe melon. Four o'clock: light sinking over the orbital road. Teatime in Enfield, night falling on Potter's Bar. There are nights when you don't want to do it, but you have to do it anyway. Nights when you look down from the stage and see closed stupid faces. Messages from the dead arrive at random. You don't want them and you can't send them back. The dead won't be coaxed and they won't be coerced. But the public has paid its money and it wants results.A sea-green sky: lamps blossoming white. This is marginal land: fields of strung wire, of treadless tyres in ditches, fridges dead on their backs, and starving ponies cropping the mud. It is a landscape running with outcasts and escapees, with Afghans, Turks and Kurds: with scapegoats, scarred with bottle and burn marks, limping from the cities with broken ribs. The life forms here are rejects, or anomalies: the cats tipped from speeding cars, and the Heathrow sheep, their fleece clotted with the stench of aviation fuel.Beside her, in profile against the fogged window, the driver's face is set. In the back seat, something dead stirs, and begins to grunt and breathe. The car flees across the junctions, and the space the road encloses is the space insideher: the arena of combat, the wasteland, the place of civil strife behind her ribs. A heart beats, taillights wink. Dim lights shine from tower blocks, from passing helicopters, from fixed stars. Night closes in on the perjured ministers and burnt-out pedophiles, on the unloved viaducts and graffitied bridges, on ditches beneath mouldering hedgerows and railings never warmed by human touch.Night and winter: but in the rotten nests and empty setts, she can feel the signs of growth, intimations of spring. This is the time of Le Pendu, the Hanged Man, swinging by his foot from the living tree. It is a time of suspension, of hesitation, of the indrawn breath. It is a time to let go of expectation, yet not abandon hope; to anticipate the turn of the Wheel of Fortune. This is our life and we have to lead it. Think of the alternative.A static cloud bank, like an ink smudge. Darkening air.It's no good asking me whether I'd choose to be like this, because I've never had a choice. I don't know about anything else. I've never been any other way.And darker still. Colour has run out from the land. Only form is left: the clumped treetops like a dragon's back. The sky deepens to midnight blue. The orange of the streetlights is blotted to a fondant cerise; in pastureland, the pylons lift their skirts in a ferrous gavotte.Copyright © 2005 by Hilary Mantel

Meet the Author

Among Hilary Mantel's major novels are A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, and Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. She has also written a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Winner of the Hawthornden Prize, she reviews for The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, and lives in England.


Hilary Mantel is the two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize for her best-selling novels, Wolf Hall, and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies—an unprecedented achievement. The Royal Shakespeare Company recently adapted Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for the stage to colossal critical acclaim and a BBC/Masterpiece six-part adaption of the novels will broadcast in 2015.

The author of fourteen books, she is currently at work on the third installment of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy.

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Beyond Black 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Our heroine Allison is a successful psychic who can see and speak to spirits from the other side. That is a good thing. Given her unbelievably abusive childhood her only other option would have been life in a mental institution. What this book has in common with the related titles below is the writer's amazing ability to portray the bizarre and unimaginable in a very human yet tragicomic manner. In this case it is schizophrenia. The books below deal with autism, Tourettes and multiple personality. 'Beyond Black' is entertaining, funny, tragic and enlightening.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms Mantel is amazing. Such a generous intellect. Some would say this is chick lit. But it is also dead lit. It is so very good. If you buy one book this month, buy this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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