Book review: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

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The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is a collection of eleven short stories, most of which were published previously. They were all new to this reader – a novice at reviewing a collection of short stories (sorry). In the collection there is a range of narrative voices, styles and time periods. All the stories are set in contemporary times, but with notable differences in the eras. The whole collection shows off Mantel’s genius as a writer and a storyteller. It is, on the whole, a dark collection, telling stories at the edges of humanity in many ways, but that made them gripping as well as gritty.

Mantel has a true gift for sharp observation, and you have the feeling that characters are offered up in the science lab for dissection and assimilation. It is the essence of Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies (oh when will the last in Cromwell’s saga be released?), and the reader will not be disappointed in the painstaking attention to detail in each of the short stories.

I appreciated each story, but my stand out is The Long QT, the shortest, and the one that had me re-read it immediately. The dysfunction of the marriage and the tragedy that befalls it, and the microscopic detail of lives shattering in a single moment, was so well captured. There are, I understand, memoir elements of her Give Up The Ghost, in Sorry To Disturb – if it is true, then there is immediately another book to be added to the long list of “to be read”.

In this collection, Mantel does not shy away from the dark side of humanity tackling themes of adultery, anorexia, isolation, loneliness, conformity, infidelity, and rape. It does not sound like a recipe for rewarding reading, but it truly is. It is a wholly absorbing collection, and if you don’t think you like short stories, you should try this smorgasbord by one of the finest writers of our time.

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