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Beyond Black: A Novel

by

Beyond Black: A Novel Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"Beyond Black is an odd-couple story, of a medium who is fat and generous and her assistant who is thin and stingy. Equally, it opposes the dead to the living, spirit world to our world, the professional to the punter, and the commodified to the real; while, as a side issue, the emasculated antics of contemporary men are compared with the grosser folkways of their fathers and grandfathers, to the keen detriment of both. But these oppositions are never secure. They infect one another, they share boundary conditions, they steal one another's best tunes." M. John Harrison, the Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Colette 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.

Review:

"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"[A] darkly funny novel....A contemporary ghost story told with humor and heart, this novel is sure to conjure up new readers for Mantel." Booklist

Review:

"The mark of a great novelist may be the ability to take you where you truly don't want to go. If so, Mantel is the real goods....Superbly odd, but still superb." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Funny and harrowing...a great comic novel. Hilary Mantel's humor, like Flannery O'Connor's, is so far beyond black it becomes a kind of light." Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Hilary Mantel's Beyond Black is an acquired taste, and I have acquired it. The novel is original and deeply dark...the author tries hard to push herself past the stark grimness of the world she describes and take the reader somewhere new and compelling." Meg Wolitzer, The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"[M]arvelous....Beyond Black is like Alison herself: It makes past and present, the living and the dead mingle with each other, drink watery tea, fall into arguments. And it makes this magic look easy." Dallas Morning News

Review:

"Her finest [novel]....Mantel's writing is so exact and brilliant that, in itself, it seems an act of survival, even redemption." The New Yorker

Review:

"Strange, funny and affecting....Mantel is...the possessor of a peerless prose style." John Banville, The New York Review of Books

Synopsis:

 
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
 
Colette 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.

Synopsis:

 
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
 
Colette 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.
Hilary Mantel's major novels include A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, and Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. Her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, drew rave reviews and brought new readers to her dark genius. Mantel lives with her husband in England.
A New York Times Notable Book
A Newsday Best Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the Orange Prize
 
A paragon of efficiency, well-schooled in the mundane tasks of an average existence, Colette took the next natural step after finishing secretarial schoolmarrying a man who would do just fine. After a sobering do-it-yourself divorce, Colette, for this first time, is at a loss as to what to do next. Convinced that she deserves a life-affirming revelation, she strays into the world of psychics and clairvoyants, the realm of tarot cards and crystal balls, hungry for a whisper to set her off in the right direction. At a psychic fair in Windsor she sneaks into Alison's show.
 
Alison, beleaguered by spirits since early childhood, lives in a different kind of solitude. She can never escape the dead who speak to her, and the physical pain of their broken bodiesleast of all the constant presence of Morris, her low-life spiritual guide. An expansive on stagein both the physical and the charismatic senseAlison feels a bond with Colette almost instantly, and invites her to become her personal assistant.
 
A dark, odd, unsettling, yet often amusing novel, Beyond Black follows the pair as they create a new life together, both women struggling to retain control in the face of the material and metaphysical pressures of the modern world. When they move to an industrial wasteland in the ravished English countryside and take in a vagrant who also hears voices (but of a different kind), Alisons connections to the place beyond black converge with the scrutiny of her neighbors, threatening to uproot her life completely.
  
With her trademark wit and keen eye for humanity's eccentrics, Hilary Mantel brings us an irresistible account of the complications of lives at the edge of the spirit worldand beyond.
"Funny and harrowing . . . Beyond Black feels like a great, gleeful binge, a wallow in the not-good-for-you riches of this writer's extraordinarily vivid, violent imagination . . . Flannery O'Connor, herself no mean connoisseur of the grotesque, once wrote: 'All comic novels that are any good must be about matters of life and death.' That's precisely the sort of mortal urgency you feel in Mantel's extravagant similes and bursting metaphors. This is, I think, a great comic novel. Hilary Mantel's humor, like Flannery O'Connor's, is so far beyond black it becomes a kind of light."Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
  
"Original and deeply dark . . . The author tries hard to push herself past the stark grimness of the world she describes and take the reader somewhere new and compelling . . . Beyond Black is a daring and extravagant book, filled with as much wit as darkness . . . Readers of fiction . . . long for writers to pull fully formed characters from the air and animate them, to dredge up entire histories and futures with a conjurer's panache. They will be satisfied by Hilary Mantel's abilities to perform these feats, and to imbue her writing with a unique combination of exhilaration and dread. With Beyond Black, she shows us how fiction can lift us into the extraordinary."Meg Wolitzer, The Washington Post Book World
 
"A darkly funny novel about the odd relationships formed among the living and the dead. Alison Hart, nearing 40, overweight and happily single, is a spiritual seer by trade. She reads palms and tarot cards; in villages throughout England, she performs in front of packed crowds, her stage act a combination of fortune-telling and 'communications' with the other side. In an age of celebrity deaths and terrorist attacks, Alison's authentic spiritual gifts are highly prized, but her personal life is in shambles, physically, emotionally, and financially. Help arrives in the form of Colette, a recently divorced, no-nonsense professional, who sees Alison's predicament as an opportunity to reinvent both women's lives. Obstacles to Colette's ambitious plans include nosy neighbors, competing psychics, even adversaries from beyondespecially a gang of menacing thugs from Alison's childhood. A contemporary ghost story told with humor and heart."James Klise, Booklist
  
"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 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 wants 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 the incidents 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."Kirkus Reviews
  
"Instead of celebrating the mystical side of 'sensitives,' the people who travel England's contemporary psychic 'fayre' circuit, Mantel concentrates on the potential banality of spiritualism in her latest novel, a no-nonsense exploration of the world of public and private clairvoyance. Co

About the Author

Hilary Mantel is the winner of the Hawthornden Prize. She reviews books for the New York Times and the New York Review of Books and lives in England.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312426057
Author:
Mantel, Hilary
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Humorous
Subject:
Occult
Subject:
Occult & Supernatural
Subject:
Horror - General
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Reprint ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
April 18, 2006
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
432
Dimensions:
16.8 x 11.9 x 7.6 in

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Related Subjects

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» Featured Titles » Literature
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» Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
» Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z

Beyond Black: A Novel New Trade Paper
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$16.00 In Stock
Product details 432 pages Picador USA - English 9780312426057 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Beyond Black is an odd-couple story, of a medium who is fat and generous and her assistant who is thin and stingy. Equally, it opposes the dead to the living, spirit world to our world, the professional to the punter, and the commodified to the real; while, as a side issue, the emasculated antics of contemporary men are compared with the grosser folkways of their fathers and grandfathers, to the keen detriment of both. But these oppositions are never secure. They infect one another, they share boundary conditions, they steal one another's best tunes." (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)
"Review" by , "[A] darkly funny novel....A contemporary ghost story told with humor and heart, this novel is sure to conjure up new readers for Mantel."
"Review" by , "The mark of a great novelist may be the ability to take you where you truly don't want to go. If so, Mantel is the real goods....Superbly odd, but still superb."
"Review" by , "Funny and harrowing...a great comic novel. Hilary Mantel's humor, like Flannery O'Connor's, is so far beyond black it becomes a kind of light."
"Review" by , "Hilary Mantel's Beyond Black is an acquired taste, and I have acquired it. The novel is original and deeply dark...the author tries hard to push herself past the stark grimness of the world she describes and take the reader somewhere new and compelling."
"Review" by , "[M]arvelous....Beyond Black is like Alison herself: It makes past and present, the living and the dead mingle with each other, drink watery tea, fall into arguments. And it makes this magic look easy."
"Review" by , "Her finest [novel]....Mantel's writing is so exact and brilliant that, in itself, it seems an act of survival, even redemption."
"Review" by , "Strange, funny and affecting....Mantel is...the possessor of a peerless prose style."
"Synopsis" by ,
 
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
 
Colette 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.
"Synopsis" by ,
 
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
 
Colette 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.
Hilary Mantel's major novels include A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, and Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. Her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, drew rave reviews and brought new readers to her dark genius. Mantel lives with her husband in England.
A New York Times Notable Book
A Newsday Best Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the Orange Prize
 
A paragon of efficiency, well-schooled in the mundane tasks of an average existence, Colette took the next natural step after finishing secretarial schoolmarrying a man who would do just fine. After a sobering do-it-yourself divorce, Colette, for this first time, is at a loss as to what to do next. Convinced that she deserves a life-affirming revelation, she strays into the world of psychics and clairvoyants, the realm of tarot cards and crystal balls, hungry for a whisper to set her off in the right direction. At a psychic fair in Windsor she sneaks into Alison's show.
 
Alison, beleaguered by spirits since early childhood, lives in a different kind of solitude. She can never escape the dead who speak to her, and the physical pain of their broken bodiesleast of all the constant presence of Morris, her low-life spiritual guide. An expansive on stagein both the physical and the charismatic senseAlison feels a bond with Colette almost instantly, and invites her to become her personal assistant.
 
A dark, odd, unsettling, yet often amusing novel, Beyond Black follows the pair as they create a new life together, both women struggling to retain control in the face of the material and metaphysical pressures of the modern world. When they move to an industrial wasteland in the ravished English countryside and take in a vagrant who also hears voices (but of a different kind), Alisons connections to the place beyond black converge with the scrutiny of her neighbors, threatening to uproot her life completely.
  
With her trademark wit and keen eye for humanity's eccentrics, Hilary Mantel brings us an irresistible account of the complications of lives at the edge of the spirit worldand beyond.
"Funny and harrowing . . . Beyond Black feels like a great, gleeful binge, a wallow in the not-good-for-you riches of this writer's extraordinarily vivid, violent imagination . . . Flannery O'Connor, herself no mean connoisseur of the grotesque, once wrote: 'All comic novels that are any good must be about matters of life and death.' That's precisely the sort of mortal urgency you feel in Mantel's extravagant similes and bursting metaphors. This is, I think, a great comic novel. Hilary Mantel's humor, like Flannery O'Connor's, is so far beyond black it becomes a kind of light."Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
  
"Original and deeply dark . . . The author tries hard to push herself past the stark grimness of the world she describes and take the reader somewhere new and compelling . . . Beyond Black is a daring and extravagant book, filled with as much wit as darkness . . . Readers of fiction . . . long for writers to pull fully formed characters from the air and animate them, to dredge up entire histories and futures with a conjurer's panache. They will be satisfied by Hilary Mantel's abilities to perform these feats, and to imbue her writing with a unique combination of exhilaration and dread. With Beyond Black, she shows us how fiction can lift us into the extraordinary."Meg Wolitzer, The Washington Post Book World
 
"A darkly funny novel about the odd relationships formed among the living and the dead. Alison Hart, nearing 40, overweight and happily single, is a spiritual seer by trade. She reads palms and tarot cards; in villages throughout England, she performs in front of packed crowds, her stage act a combination of fortune-telling and 'communications' with the other side. In an age of celebrity deaths and terrorist attacks, Alison's authentic spiritual gifts are highly prized, but her personal life is in shambles, physically, emotionally, and financially. Help arrives in the form of Colette, a recently divorced, no-nonsense professional, who sees Alison's predicament as an opportunity to reinvent both women's lives. Obstacles to Colette's ambitious plans include nosy neighbors, competing psychics, even adversaries from beyondespecially a gang of menacing thugs from Alison's childhood. A contemporary ghost story told with humor and heart."James Klise, Booklist
  
"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 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 wants 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 the incidents 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."Kirkus Reviews
  
"Instead of celebrating the mystical side of 'sensitives,' the people who travel England's contemporary psychic 'fayre' circuit, Mantel concentrates on the potential banality of spiritualism in her latest novel, a no-nonsense exploration of the world of public and private clairvoyance. Co
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