Books Magazine

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel

By Pamelascott

beyond black

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel

Fourth Estate (paperback), 2005

451 pages


A comically sinister tale of wicked spirits and suburban mediums from the Man Booker Prize-winning author of ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’. 

Alison Hart, a medium by trade, tours the dormitory towns of London’s orbital ring road with her flint-hearted sidekick, Colette, passing on messages from beloved dead ancestors. But behind her plump, smiling persona hides a desperate woman: she knows the terrors the next life holds but must conceal them from her wide-eyed clients. At the same time she is plagued by spirits from her own past, who infiltrate her body and home, becoming stronger and nastier the more she resists… 

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Hilary Mantel’s supremely suspenseful novel is a masterpiece of dark humor and even darker secrets. 


Travelling: the dank oily days after Christmas. The motorway, its wastes looping London: the margin’s scrub-grass flaring orange in the lights, and the leaves of the poisoned shrubs striped yellow-green like a cantaloupe melon. Four o’clock: light sinking over the orbital road. Teatime in Enfield, night falling on Potters Bar. 


I love the blend of light and dark mantel offers in Beyond Black. There are some truly funny scenes especially when Alison is working as a psychic. She also clashes with Colette a lot which can be really funny. These lighter moments are contrasted with some pretty dark stuff. The dark stuff revolved around Alison’s memories of a terrible childhood. Her mother was a prostitute, hung about with various nasty men and the police were always after her. I found some of the flashbacks to her childhood truly disturbing. In one scene various men her mother associated with cut her up with a knife to teach her a lesson when she oversees them dismembering a body. I found this truly disturbing.

Mantel offers well-written and very believable characters in Beyond Black. I thought Alison was great. She’s quite a tragic figure. She spent a childhood in hell and her psychic gift means her adulthood is not much better. Mantel gives the impression Alison is not completely happy with her psychic powers. She feels attacked by the spirits she sees all the time, plaguing her life and sanity. Alison is grossly overweight. She has chosen to become so large to create some kind of defence against the dead who constantly attack her. My heart bled for her at time. I really didn’t like Colette. She is not a very pleasant person. She is quite abrasive and comes across as cruel. She is constantly belittling Alison and is very controlling. I was happy when Colette abandons her. Alison’s mother and the various nasty men in her life were well-written character and managed to avoid being one-dimensional villains.

I loved the concept of Beyond Black. I’ve not really read much fiction about someone who is psychic, well not one that focuses so much on the trade. I really enjoyed the scenes when Alison was working especially at psychic fairs and in bars. These were well written and fascinating in a way. Some of the most interesting characters are the various other psychics Alison knows. Mantel offers something interesting and a bit different with Beyond Black.

Beyond Black is an original ghost story. Alison is the perfect definition of haunted. She survived a childhood in hell surrounded by not one but several monsters. Mantel hints that her mother passed her round various men for sex when she was very young. This is not overtly stated but there are enough hints to give me the creeps. She has been mentally scarred by her childhood. Her psychic powers mean Morris; one of the men in her mother’s life is her spiritual guide. He is the man who cut up all those years ago. Imagine if the spirit of someone who terrorised and abused you as a child was always around? Morris is also friends with the spirits of the other men her mother knew so they haunt Alison as well. She is haunted mentally and physically by her terrible childhood. If that’s not a ghost story I don’t know what is.

I loved Beyond Black. Mantel has become one of my favorite writers thanks to her novels A Place of Greater Safety, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. Beyond Black is the first Mantel novel I’ve read that isn’t historical fiction so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed. Beyond Black is a great read.



You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Shilo Sanders- Son Of Deion Sanders Thanks Courts For Allowing Him To Live With...

    Shilo Sanders- Deion Sanders Thanks Courts Allowing Live With Pilar

    ChristianNews Shilo Sanders, the son of NFL Hall of Famer,  Deion Sanders took to twitter to “thank” the courts for allowing him to live with his mother, Pilar... Read more

    The 04 August 2017 by   Firstladyb
  • “I Feel Great”

    Feel Great”

    Jakub went to his doctor's office believing that he had a back injury, but returned with a chocking diagnosis instead. He had type 2 diabetes - in spite of... Read more

    The 04 August 2017 by   Dietdoctor
  • July Allotment Recap (2/2)

    July Allotment Recap (2/2)

    Sunday afternoon saw us return bravely to 24a even though there were more thundery showers foretold by the weatherman. I will admit that I guffawed at the... Read more

    The 04 August 2017 by   Chrryblossomtat2
  • Culinary Delicacies in Croatia- What to Eat and Drink in Croatia

    Culinary Delicacies Croatia- What Drink Croatia

    In my earlier post, we spoke about how Croatia is a stunning European destination, let us now see what are the culinary delicacies in Croatia or what you can... Read more

    The 04 August 2017 by   Kash Pals
  • #Golf Training Aids Spotlight: The Delta Putt

    #Golf Training Aids Spotlight: Delta Putt

    Do you consider yourself to be a strong putter or do you feel you could improve your make percentage on the green? Most amateurs could use help with the flat... Read more

    The 04 August 2017 by   Golfforbeginners
  • Three Incredible Hikes in Southern Iceland3 Min Read

    Three Incredible Hikes Southern Iceland3 Read

    Nature takes center stage in Iceland, where there's a stunning view around every bend: massive glaciers, expansive lava fields, powerful waterfalls, black sand... Read more

    The 04 August 2017 by   Healthytravelblog
  • What I Wore: Daytime Pajamas

    What Wore: Daytime Pajamas

    Pajama top: ELOQUII (14) | Pajama pants: ELOQUII (14) | Shoes: ASOS (similar) | Earrings: J. Crew ( same in different colors, similar concept in same color) |... Read more

    The 04 August 2017 by   Wardrobeoxygen

Paperblog Hot Topics