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Beyond Black (2005)

von Hilary Mantel

MitgliederRezensionenBeliebtheitDurchschnittliche BewertungDiskussionen / Diskussionen
1,596568,509 (3.41)1 / 245
Alison Hart is a medium by trade and has the ability to communicate with spirits, but she feels this is a torment instead of a gift. She knows that the next life holds terrors that she must conceal from her clients, her days and nights are haunted by the men she knew in her childhood, the thugs and petty criminals who preyed upon her hopeless, addled mother Emmie. The more she tries to get rid of them, the stronger and naster they become......… (mehr)
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It was better than "okay" and I finished it, and I admire Mantel's imaginative powers and her writing enormously, so it gets 3 stars. But it was a bit of a slog. Mostly, it was just too... damn... long. This from someone who devoured Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, and A Place of Greater Safety, barely coming up for air. (Mirror and the Light is next as soon as I can wrench it away from my husband.)

It's a dark, sly, often funny ghost story. It's a clear-eyed, satiric look at the modern "occult" industry, yet with sympathy for the voids and pain of those who practice it and those who consume it. It's a wonderful riff on the afterlife and the souls who exist there, chaotically intruding "earthside" and haunting (literally and figuratively) the mortals trying to get on with their lives. In Alison's case, a good-hearted, earnest, obese psychic is floundering in the wake of an appalling childhood (revealed in fits and starts, and only gets worse as the story proceeds). She is anxious, not very practical, and the cutthroat competition among her peers is killing her. She hires Colette, a skinny, cold-minded, domineering, ambitious young divorcee, to manage her business affairs. It is a predictably stormy relationship, fraught by a team of dead souls who taunt and torment poor Alison - and whom Colette must unwillingly learn to cope with. Business picks up as the partnership crumbles. The ghosts cavort - here Mantel is wonderful in imagining and describing how annoying it is when they slither in through the car's a/c vents, giggle under the living room carpet, and expose themselves in corners. But it all just goes on a bit too long, too often, and finally you begin to skim because you've seen this scene play out already, 20 pages earlier.

Some readers have been troubled by the repeated description of Alison's obesity, as a sort of ongoing joke in poor taste. In her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, Mantel describes her own harrowing experience with her health - unconscionably ignored, minimized, and dismissed by doctors for years while she suffered. She was subjected to psychiatric treatments, and finally powerful drugs that caused her to go from a stick-thin young woman to an obesity that made her barely able to recognize herself. And let's face it, fat people know they're fat - they are reminded of it every single day, by the mirror, by the media, by the shops, by the world at large. I think Mantel was working to convey something about this issue in a personal and unflinching way, though it may seem cruel in the telling.

I'm a Mantel fan, and will try pretty much anything she has written. But while this has her trademark fizzing imagination, brilliant imagery, biting characters and dialog... it may be too much, too rampant, too unedited to be one to start with. ( )
  JulieStielstra | May 17, 2021 |
A contemporary fantasy novel about a psychic and her assistant trying to make a business and general interactions with the spirit world. The psychic can really commune with spirits and has her own spirit guide, who causes more mischief then help. The spirit part of the book is light and consists mostly on her spirit guide. The story is mostly about day to day events and past events that helped shape the psychic. Overall there is no plot, very little story, and not an enjoyable read. The characters are like caricatures and remind me of Confederacy of Dunces, but not in a good way. There is a lot of body shaming in the book, which I expected it to lead somewhere, but it didn't. I wouldn't recommend this book. ( )
  renbedell | Apr 21, 2020 |
This is an odd book. At one level it is incredibly unpleasant, and yet I don't remember thinking about stopping. Spoilers follow...
Alison is a woman built on generous lines and is a medium. She has, as her spirit guide, a thoroughly unpleasant individual known as Morris. She has known Morris in real life, he was one of a set of distinctly unpleasant individuals who hung around her mother's house when she was young. Alison's mother was on the game, and the group of men (known collectively as the the fiends) were her clients, drug dealers and worse. Alison is confused about her childhood, not being sure what happened exactly when or how old she was. What we glean is that she was auctioned off by her mother to the highest bidder, was shared around, abused, cut, beaten and thoroughly degraded by all concerned. She gradually starts to make sense of her childhood and her adult life begins to make more sense and a change for the better is achieved.
In parallel to this we have Collette, who is entirely un-moved by the spirit world. She has just come out of a relationship with Gavin and is seeking meaning in her life. She becomes Alison's business PA, arranging her demonstrations, doing the books etc. they move into a house together (in separate rooms, it's not that sort of relationship) and there is plenty of opportunity for misunderstanding. You could also describe her as completely untouched by the softer arts as well, but that is, to some extent, her purpose in the book, to act as a foil to Alison.
The cover describes this as being darkly humorous. It is certainly dark, about as black as it is possible to be, I think, and while there is wit in here, in some of the situations conjured up, I'm not sure its wit will be what stays with me. My overriding feeling on concluding is that there is a particularly dark corner of hell reserved for those who act as the fiends have done. Alison comes of the book in a better place than she went into it, but that is the only positive I think I can take from it. ( )
  Helenliz | Feb 7, 2020 |
Beyond Black is a strange dark and yet also oddly humorous novel. One of the two main characters is Alison; a medium who can speak with people who have died. She meets Colette who becomes here manager and makes Alison more successful. but Colette is not a “sensitive” herself and doesn’t really understand what Alison must endure.

Alison is haunted by her childhood. She had an abusive mother who was a prostitute and also let her customers abuse Alison. Alison remembers some of what happened to her but has repressed many of her memories. Unfortunately her spirit guid to the “other side” is Morris, the ghost of one of the men who may have abused her. As the book progresses the behavior of Morris and friends (the ghosts of the other men from Alison’s mother’s circle) becomes more insulting and tormenting.

The book really doesn’t have a plot. Alison and her fellow psychics make their living doing group shows and one on one readings for customers. Much of the humor of the book comes from the petty sniping between the psychics and the relationship between Alison and Colette (who buy a house together) and their suburban neighbors. Eventually Alison realizes that, to end the torment from Morris and the others, she must use her powers to uncover the memories from her childhood that she has suppressed. ( )
  amareshjoshi | Jul 26, 2019 |
I didn’t care for this at all, but ended up rather engrossed by it just the same. Huh. Rather like Mr. Norell, another British Fantasy/Horror, I didn’t find the supernatural element very scary or interesting. The menace from the medium’s past got tiresome. ( )
  Seafox | Jul 24, 2019 |
Beyond Black is a fine work, and from a lesser novelist would have seemed a masterpiece. It is too long—Muriel Spark would have managed the same effect in a hundred or so crisp pages—and despite the self-deprecating humor it shows too overtly its grand intentions.
hinzugefügt von jburlinson | bearbeitenNew York Review of Books, John Banville (bezahlte Seite) (Sep 25, 2005)
 
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.
hinzugefügt von Nickelini | bearbeitenNew York Times, Terrance Rafferty (May 15, 2005)
 
Mantel—a funny, scathing British novelist, too long ignored in the U.S.—is a master of dark subject matter, and in her latest, she’s created a protagonist who’s accustomed to darkness: Alison, a psychic, a woman trying to live a pleasant life, if it weren’t for the ghosts that keep tormenting her.
 
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Alison Hart is a medium by trade and has the ability to communicate with spirits, but she feels this is a torment instead of a gift. She knows that the next life holds terrors that she must conceal from her clients, her days and nights are haunted by the men she knew in her childhood, the thugs and petty criminals who preyed upon her hopeless, addled mother Emmie. The more she tries to get rid of them, the stronger and naster they become......

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Durchschnitt: (3.41)
0.5 3
1 10
1.5 5
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