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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

July–August 2007, no. 293

Uplands by Louise Crisp

Ecopoetics is tricky terrain which, in these poems of ‘forest and water’, Louise Crisp encounters sometimes with agility, sometimes faltering. Perhaps that’s intended.

The cumulative effect of this collection is one of an overland trek, gradually ascending from ‘poisonous lowlands’ to the harsher, restorative air of ‘uplands’.

From the Archive

May 1994, no. 160

Weary: The Life of Sir Edward Dunlop by Sue Ebury

Over 35,000 copies of the hardback edition of Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop’s war diaries had been sold before they were reissued in paperback. Now Sue Ebury, who edited those diaries for publication, has written an accompanying ‘Life’. An impish picture of the older Weary in a sportscoat looking rather smaller than he really was grins beneath his name written in gold on a red silk background. In the paper edition it will surely be embossed.

From the Archive

September 2011, no. 334

Jam Dreaming by Jan Gross

The premise of Jam Dreaming is worthwhile; three cultures and generations meet over food. Eileen is an Aboriginal girl who lives in a squat. She is grieving for her mother, who died of alcoholism. Trying to find warmth beside a restaurant at night, she stumbles into the life of Mama Jocsdi, who cooks traditional European food. Mama’s sister, Nellie, with whom she escaped the Nazis, remains an elusive character. Eileen also makes friends with two other elderly women; Aboriginal matriarch Aunty Lois, and her sister. Eileen begins to learn skills and identity from these women.