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A Memoir of My Former Self

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781399813914

Price: £12.99

ON SALE: 19th October 2023

Genre: Literature & Literary Studies / Prose: Non-fiction

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‘A guide to the mind of one of the great English novelists of the last half-century’ Guardian

‘Like hearing the voice of an old friend’ Observer

‘Extraordinary . . . a quality of timelessness and prescience’ New Statesman, Book of the Year

‘Magical . . . Here we meet not just Mantel the Cromwell-catcher, but Mantel the quill-sharp critic of contemporary life’ The Times, Book of the Year


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

‘Mantel was a queen of literature . . . her reign was long, varied and uncontested’ Maggie O’Farrell


A smart, deft, meticulous, thoughtful writer, with such a grasp of the dark and spidery corners of human nature
Margaret Atwood
One of the very greatest of our writers; poetic and profound prose with an incomparable feel for the texture of history
Simon Schama
Mantel was a queen of literature . . . her reign was long, varied and uncontested
Maggie O’Farrell
Mantel bristled with intelligence, looked at everything, saw everything . . . With the uneasy energy of her early life, Mantel made rigorous and unsettling work about history, the body and the unknowable
Anne Enright
In this dazzling posthumous collection of previously published and original writings . . . 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
The range of subjects is magnificent . . . She can create character in a few lines . . . open at any page for treasures and gold
i Paper
Her death at the age of 70 last September still feels like a tragedy. Open the pages of this book and that feeling hardens into certainty. What a talent we lost. Her sentences leap off the page, her range is exceptional . . . You never waste a moment reading Hilary Mantel . . . There wasn't much she couldn't do
Evening Standard
Today, she reigns supreme as the queen of the historical novel: the achievement of her Wolf Hall trilogy, twice the recipient of Booker Prizes, is universally acknowledged . . . it's a rich and illuminating coda to both Mantel's life and career . . . Now we're the ones stumbling along behind the spectral figure of Mantel herself, eager for her every last word
Daily Telegraph
Her long essays on female writers show Mantel at her best . . . Indeed she excels at writing about writing generally . . . And it's on being a writer that Mantel is funniest . . . a guide to the mind of one of the great English novelists of the last half-century
We must be grateful that she has left us this collection of pieces, thoughtfully compiled by Pearson . . . Revisiting these pieces, with their fierce wit, their dark humour and compassion, is like hearing the voice of an old friend you had not expected to encounter again . . . A Memoir of My Former Self is a fine testament to that remarkable imagination - a reminder of what a voice we have lost, and how fortunate we are that she left us so much
Even her biggest fans will find material new to them . . . The overall effect is to make the reader feel that Mantel is with us still, communicating from beyond the grave. This collection - much more than the sum of its parts - allows us to see how her theories of life and art knit together . . . We get a sense of what shaped her . . . She writes with humour, at times droll, at others razor-sharp. Above all, we get to appreciate the poetry and precision of her prose
New Statesman
Hilary Mantel is worth reading on everything . . . Mordant and witty
Literary Review
How did she manage to write on such a wide range of subjects with such interest, such playfulness and such fidelity to the power of interrogation? . . . Most striking here is Mantel's clear-eyed compassion, her insistence on truthfulness . . . deliciously frank . . . Here are fascinatingly various mediations of that secret self.
Times Literary Supplement
I miss knowing Hilary Mantel is out there somewhere, exhuming Tudor England. Don't you? At least we can still hear her (strange, slightly magical) voice in this selection from her essays and reviews. Here we meet not just Mantel the Cromwell-catcher, but Mantel the quill-sharp critic of contemporary life, despising expat life in 1980s Saudi Arabia ('When you come across an alien culture you must not automatically respect it. You must sometimes pay it the compliment of hating it') or revelling in the wit of When Harry Met Sally
The Times, Books of the Year
The essays in this posthumous collection displays Mantel's extraordinary range and depth as well as the eclecticism of her interests . . . Read together they have a quality of timelessness and prescience
New Statesman, Books of the Year