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ABR Arts

Book of the Week

A Memoir of My Former Self: A life in writing

A Memoir of My Former Self: A life in writing by Hilary Mantel, edited by Nicholas Pearson

In the title piece of this posthumous selection of reviews, criticism, essays, and journalism, Hilary Mantel describes how she once visited an irritating psychic she nicknamed ‘Twerp’ in order to guide her back to her former self: ‘I didn’t necessarily think I had a past life, but I wanted to know how it would feel if I did.’ Her former self turns out to have been a ‘miserable illegitimate infant’ called Sara, born to a family of millworkers in the north of England. Sara isn’t an unlikely candidate: Mantel’s mother worked in a cotton mill from the age of fourteen, as did her maternal grandmother, who left school aged twelve; Mantel’s great-grandmother had been illiterate. Mantel comes from ‘a long line of nobodies’. All that ‘Twerp’ wants to ask Sara is whether or not she is courting, when the real love of Sara’s life is Billy, her white bull terrier. ‘If Sara had slapped him,’ Mantel wonders, ‘what sort of a defence would I have had to a charge of assault?’



From the Archive

From the Archive

June 2013, no. 352

Ray Cassin reviews 'Soldier of Christ: The Life of Pope Pius XII' by Robert A. Ventresca

Not the least portent of change in the Catholic Church since the Argentine Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio was elected as Pope Francis earlier this year has been mounting speculation that the new pontiff will disclose all documents in the Vatican archives concerning the most controversial of his twentieth-century predecessors, Eugenio Pacelli, who reigned as Pius XII from 1939 to 1958.

From the Archive

June 2010, issue no. 322

Sunshine And Shadow: A Brothers' Story by James and Stephen Dack (with Larry Writer)

Siblings tend to play little part in family memoirs that focus on parents. Most memoirists write as if they are only children. Perhaps this is unsurprising; siblings’ memories of childhood rarely correspond. As Robert Gray observes in his autobiography The Land I Came Through Last (2008), ‘the one in the family who is going to be a writer is always an only child’.