By Hilary Mantel
Completed January 1, 2012
I have to admit: I had a hard time writing this review. How can a book be intriguing and boring at the same time? That’s the state I find myself in as I put together my thoughts on Beyond Black.
In summary, Beyond Black is the tale of Alison, a psychic, and her business partner/personal assistant, Colette. Their relationship reminded me of “The Odd Couple” – you couldn’t get two more different people together. Alison was a big presence – vibrant, full-figured, sweet-smelling and congenial. Colette was a drab sidekick – beige, skinny and condescending. How they ended up together is still a mystery to me, even as I finished the book.
Alison is forever tormented by spirits. Her spirit guide, Morris, is a dirty pig, often found fondling himself (thank goodness only Alison could see him). As the story progresses, Mantel reveals that Alison knew Morris before his death, which opens up the intriguing parts of the book: Alison’s tortuous childhood. Bit by bit, Mantel feeds the reader information about Alison’s past – what was done to her and what she did. These bite-size nuggets help propel the story; however, it was not enough. Beyond Black is mixed with so much “non-action” that it overshadowed the compelling stuff.
Parts of Beyond Black were darn funny (my favorite scene was Princess Diana talking to Alison), but the most of it was too dark for my taste. The pace of Beyond Black was uneven, and I think it could have been tightened by a good 100 pages. But we all know that Mantel can write – and I look forward to reading my next Mantel selection, The Giant, O’Brien, very soon. ( )