Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel

The spirits in Beyond Black are actually too substantial. Alison, a psychic, is physically exhausted by her otherworldly contact and by her groping spirit guide, Morris, who followed her from the rough neighborhood where she grew up.

Beyond Black is extremely sad, but also very funny. It’s even more sad because it’s funny. The dimensions of the threats to Alison expand and contract on every page, as I forgot and re-grasped the danger that she’s in. Morris and his perilous friends, the material closeness of the spirits that makes her sick, and the multitude of voices calling out to her all have a funny and everyday dimension: Morris’s joking slang, Alison’s fatness and complaints, and the bumbling entrances of the confused dead.

Since Alison is too soft and large, with, as she puts it, no boundaries to her senses or her body,  she hires an assistant, Colette, who is sharp and selfish. So the relationship between the two is a feat of spiritual balance, but it’s also simply a “female friendship—” one of the keywords on the publishing page.

read this book! It’s out of print in the US, but we have new paperback copies from the UK.

Now I’m reading Wolf Hall, and hopefully the same big-small thing will happen with the huge dimensions of a historical novel and the everyday lives of its characters.

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