A New York Times Notable Book of the YearColette and Alison are unlikely cohorts one a shy, drab beanpole of an assistant, the other a charismatic, corpulent psychic whose connection to the spiritual world torments her When they meet at a fair, Alison invites Colette at once to join her on the road as her personal assistant and companion Troubles spiral out of control wA New York Times Notable Book of the YearColette and Alison are unlikely cohorts one a shy, drab beanpole of an assistant, the other a charismatic, corpulent psychic whose connection to the spiritual world torments her When they meet at a fair, Alison invites Colette at once 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 It is not long before 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.
Beyond Black A New York Times Notable Book of the YearColette and Alison are unlikely cohorts one a shy drab beanpole of an assistant the other a charismatic corpulent psychic whose connection to the spiritual
There's not much here in the way of plot, but still there's a lot to recommend in this novel about a professional psychic--who really does see ghosts--plying her trade in the working class suburbs of London. The profession itself becomes an excellent metaphor for writing: the spirits though genuine are often difficult to discern, and even when discerned do not always appear when summoned, and therefore the medium is forced to make do with psychological manipulation, theatrical effects, and charl [...]
Oh god. Where do I even begin? Lots of reviewers complained they didn't know where the book was going. Well, I didn't know either, but I thought it was a good thing. Don't you just love when you don't know where the book is going? 'Beyond Black' was going in all sorts of directions at once. It was a story about Alison, a medium, who can see and talk to ghosts and also happens to be very fat. It was a story about her obnoxious, nasty assistant cum manager (who weirdly reminded me of my very own a [...]
It's raw, this kind of work, and near the knuckle: unsupported by music, lighting, video screen, it's just you and them and the dead, the dead who may oblige or may not, who may confuse and mislead and laugh at you, who may give you bursts of foul language very close up to your ear, who may give you false names and lay false trails just to see you embarrassed.Alison is a medium and a consummate performer. She soothes her audience, gains their trust and even shuts down hecklers with a few well ch [...]
Intermittently funny, sad, tragic, malicious and rather ghoulish novel; good in parts, but overlong and repetitive. It is certainly well written; Mantel is a great writer, as Wolf Hall has shown. The plot meanders rather a lot and doesn't really go anywhere. The premise is simple. Alison is a psychic/medium, a good one, but rather disorganised. Colette becomes her sidekick and PA and organises her life. The dead, however are less easy to organise. Here's the key to the book. The dead are no diff [...]
Every time I told someone I was reading this book, they inevitably mentioned Wolf Hall, Mantel's most recent novel and winner of the 2009 Booker Prize, and tended to assume I'd chosen Beyond Black because I'd already read Wolf Hall. In fact, the latter doesn't interest me at all; I can't remember where I first saw Beyond Black, but it was the plot outline that drew me in - a black comedy about a professional psychic, her assistant, and the spirits that haunt them - along with a quote from Philip [...]
This is one of those books. You know those books, the ones that aren't bad, but aren't good, but you're not entirely upset you read, but they don't really inspire you to find anything more by the author.(Thankfully, I already Wolf Hall so I know she can do better).It's one of those books that you know could be better if something, but you're not sure what, was better or different. Yet, you feel like your stupid and not quite getting it. Until you realize The New York Times took ages to reveiw Na [...]
A page-turner. The first we've had for a while. By turns funny, ghastly and frightening. This book stayed with me, causing nightmares. The spirits inhabiting this world are thoroughly believable. I loved the conceit that just because a person is dead, it doesn't make what they have to say anymore interesting than when they were alive. I also loved the commercial world of the mediums with charlatans and everyone trying to make a quick buck. Some parts made me laugh out loud. Also thoroughly Dicke [...]
This is the first Mantel I've read since the late 1990s when I discovered Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, A Change of Climate, and An Experiment in Love. (I'll get to the Wolf Hall-business at some point.) Here we have two eccentric English ladies (and a foul-mouthed dwarf spook), and sometimes the relationship between the women reminded me of a marriage. For example this exchange, when one character retracts a suggestion she's made to the other, since the other keeps insisting she can't take it [...]
This novel is both horrifying and maliciously funny. Alison –Al- Hart, overweight medium, is making a good living, giving private readings and doing psychic fairs, but is always alone- at least, where living people are concerned. She can never escape from the dead, who follow her and bother her constantly. And here’s the thing: people don’t get any smarter or nicer when they die. They don’t undergo any spiritual awakening. If they were nasty and mean in life, that’s how they are in dea [...]
Beyond Black is an uneven book that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be when it grows up. The main character, a genuine psychic named Alison, is a character you develop great sympathy for during the story. The storyline following how she unravels the questions about her tormented childhood is creepy and fascinating. She seeks to discover why dead people haunt her, especially a gang of wretched characters she calls "fiends" who act determined to make her life miserable.The main problem the s [...]
This is the third book by Mantel that I've read and I'm very struck by how different it is from the other two. There's almost no common ground except her tendency to slip back and forth between the two main characters' points of view constantly, even sometimes within the same paragraph. The subject matter is fascinating and as usual, very well researched. I did wonder at times how she planned to wrap it up - it is a bit shapeless in the middle - but the end is suitably fitting.
Well, I thoughtEveryday is Mother's Day was dark. Wow! There are some parallels between those two books as well. A character in Everyday is Mother's Day is haunted by ghosts, just as Allison, the main character in this novel is haunted. At first it seems a straight up ghost story, but don't be fooled. Gradually Allison begins to uncover the connection between the ghosts she sees and her traumatic past. I liked that approach to her problems. It made them more interesting and more mysterious. I di [...]
I adore Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall books. I hadn't read anything else by her. I went into this blind. All I knew about the book was what Phillip Pullman said about it, that it was an excellent ghost story. It was right at the front of my copy's cover. No blurb accompanied it. Maybe this helped, because I wasn't burdened with any expectations. Alison Hart is the heart of this book - a fat psychic with a problematic spirit guide. She hires an assistant, Colette, a divorcee who is at loose ends with [...]
This book is relentless, like winding up a malevolent jack-in-the-box, never knowing when the f***er is going to spring on you. The pace is slow, teasing really; the story often cryptic and elusive. Allison is a medium, no faker, the real deal. Only, it isn’t glamorous or even particularly useful. She can’t do lotto numbers or see into the future, but she can hear the dead, and what a clamorous, mostly nasty bunch they are. She takes on Colette as her manager to help her run her business, es [...]
This book doesn't have much in the way of plot, although some revelations about the main character's past are finally gotten to by the end of the book, after 400 pages of hinting. The characters were interesting for a while, but the slowness of the story moving forward makes the reader tired of them. Also, tired of all the secondary characters. And almost every character in the book is nasty and unpleasant in some way. In a lot of ways, the book is very brutal and grotesque, and bloody and gross [...]
So dark and scary and yet so witty. Mantel is now firmly on my favourite author list.First read: 2013; re-read 2017.
Black, black humour -- beyond black, indeed. I thought it was time I read some more Hilary Mantel, and someone recommended this. The first couple of chapters are mesmerising. After that it gets a little uneven, and it's overlong, but the best bits are stunning. My favourite part was the section where Alison and her assistant Colette buy and live in a house on a new-build estate. Mantel is hideously and hilariously precise in her skewering of life in the dullest bits of the Home Counties, just be [...]
UPDATE: Fun podcast by the folks at Backlisted Podcast on the brilliance of this novel: Listen hereHilary Mantel is masterful in building immersive worlds inside her novels, and Beyond Black is no exception. It's perhaps overlong, but the main story is rolled out meticulously over 400+ pages. The element that work best for me is the abject loneliness of Alison, the novel's sad, bereft, and ultimately outcast protagonist. She's a psychic whose life is possessed by terrible 'fiends', grotesque and [...]
There was a point, around about chapter 9, when I was sure this book and I were going part company. The plot headed off in strange directions, and it was like chasing shadows along dark alleyways. Up to that point the story, involving a medium and her business partner, had been illuminating, quite funny and very entertaining. But there is a darker side to this novel and its grip on the plot increased as the pages turned. It is an odd mix – lighthearted banter with the shadow of grim events in [...]
I read this for a lit course, and in that respect, it certainly offers plenty to analyze, that said, it is far from enjoyable. In fact, I really had to force my way through this book.This is the first (and likely destined to remain the only) book I have read by Mantel. The story revolves around Alison, a medium, and Colette, her manager. But don't expect any fun, charming - looking-into-the crystal-ball - type of story. This is dark, very dark (Beyond Black I had to go there;-)It is also mighty [...]
It isn't the sort of book I would normally read, though I read quite widely, like most authors. I don't believe in clairvoyance, or mediums, or ghosts, or anything of that arcane nature. But Hilary Mantel is a very good writer and she kind of seduces you into this most peculiar world. In essence this is a kind of ghost story. It is a very different ghost story from any other I have read. The two main characters, Alison Hart -- the obese but kindly and likeable medium -- and her strait-laced not [...]
What I like about it is the ordinariness of the characters in contrast to their dealings with the 'afterlife'. It's dark and hilarious and a bit moving too.2006 notebook: story of the M25 medium and her uptight assistant with their unruly guests from the other side and a possibly violent murky past covered over with humour and forgetfulness. Full of marvellous scenes, great wit and humour. Things contained, everybody with some incredibly charged hinterland within and on the surface dull. I love [...]
This has to be one of the worst books I have ever had the misfortune to read! I read this book for a book group, and not one of us who was there had anything good to say about it, no plot, characters were badly written, can't believe this was written by the same person who wrote Wolf Hall. Would have given this book no stars if I could, do not read this book at any cost!
BORED ME TO TEARS!
Here’s the perfect set-up for a black comedy: an overweight, repressed psychic named Alison must confront her own ghosts—and not just symbolic ghosts, like mere stand-ins of desires and secrets, but actual, real ghosts—the Fiends she calls them. What makesBeyond Black byHilary Mantel really interesting is that Alison is the real deal. In a live performance in front of an audience in one of the more dramatic scenes in the book, we’re treated to her special skills in action. Nothing sensat [...]
In her novel Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel presents a series of characters who ought to be Mr and Mrs, or Uncle and Auntie Normal. They all live near the M25, London’s orbital motorway and inhabit places as interesting as Slough, Maidenhead and Uxbridge. Even distant Essex gets a mention. But many of these people aren’t normal, or average, or even alive, for that matter. Many of them are in fact the dreaded four-letter d-word, the word that the book’s principal character prefers not to say o [...]
Major Spoiler Alert! Don't read this if you haven't read the book. I enjoyed Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, so I was looking forward to reading Beyond Black. I had to give the book just three stars, though, because it was very hard to get through; the characters and tone were depressing and unremittingly unpleasant. That said, its complexity kept me going. At first I took at face value that the psychic, Alison, was surrounded by evil, low-life, interfering ghosts from her abused and poverty- [...]
more thoughts, 19.3.17.Even more brilliant than I had remembered it being, which is saying something. Mantel is viciously funny. "But no two ways about it. She was on the game. Gypsies and jockeys and sailors, it was all the same to her. She used to go down to Portsmouth. She went off after a circus once, prostituting herself to dwarfs and the like, God forgive her, foreigners."There's nothing at all gauzy about her writing; she is ruthless, and her characters are painfully true to life. This bo [...]
C'è un progredire verso la conoscenza che non viene mai ricompensato in questo romanzo, ci sono tutti i sintomi per riuscire a raggiungere qualcosa, ma non si riesce mai ad afferrare una soluzione reale. Ci sono prima di tutto gli spiriti, che non sono semplici anime passate “oltre”, ma esseri quasi viventi da temere con una certa riverenza. I fantasmi non sono buoni. Non sono tutti dei gran simpaticoni che rivelano a chi è ancora vivo dove trovare una busta nascosta in casa zeppa di banco [...]
The word on the street in SW14 was this was almost unreadable compared to Wolf Hall, mainly I suspect because rather than dealing with the infinitely more fashionable machinations of the Tudor court, Beyond Black is a grim, brutish helterskelter through dystopian Aldershot, with two people you don't really like.They got it half right: it is grim, brutish and bleak, the two central characters, Alison and Colette, aren't exactly laugh a minute, and I'm willing to argue Aldershot is fairly dystopia [...]