A Memoir of My Former Self

Hilary Mantel

£25.00

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John Murray Press
19 October 2023
ISBN: 9781399813884
Hardback
400 pages

From the publisher

‘I breathed in stories, as soon as I breathed in air. Sometimes I think I wasn’t born, but I just came out of an ink blot.’

‘Mantel’s idiosyncratic and magisterial voice comes through on every page, carrying readers across an astonishing array of subject matter with ease. This is a treasure’ Publishers Weekly

As well as her celebrated career as a novelist, Hilary Mantel long contributed to newspapers and journals, unspooling stories from her own life and illuminating the world as she found it. This strand of her writing was an integral part of how she thought of herself. ‘Ink is a generative fluid,’ she explains. ‘If you don’t mean your words to breed consequences, don’t write at all.’ A Memoir of My Former Self collects the finest of this writing over four decades.

Mantel’s subjects are wide-ranging. She discusses nationalism and her own sense of belonging; our dream life flopping into our conscious life; the mythic legacy of Princess Diana; the many themes that feed into her novels – revolutionary France, psychics, Tudor England – and other novelists, from Jane Austen to V. S. Naipaul. She writes about her father and the man who replaced him; she writes fiercely and heartbreakingly about the battles with her health she endured as a young woman, and the stifling years she found herself living in Saudi Arabia. Here, too, is a selection of her film reviews – from When Harry Met Sally to RoboCop – and, published for the first time, her stunning Reith Lectures, which explore the process of art bringing history and the dead back to life.

From her unique childhood to her all-consuming fascination with Thomas Cromwell that grew into the Wolf Hall Trilogy, A Memoir of My Former Self reveals the shape of Hilary Mantel’s life in her own dazzling words, ‘messages from people I used to be.’ Compelling, often very funny, always luminous, it is essential reading from one of our greatest writers.

‘A smart, deft, meticulous, thoughtful writer, with such a grasp of the dark and spidery corners of human nature’ Margaret Atwood