4 journalers for this copy...
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
This looks interesting, from the blurb;
'A masterpiece of wit'
'[Beyond Black] is chilling, creepy and endlessly inventive'
Not an unreserved hit for me, although I will look out for more books by Mantel. Thank you Ionamac/Hillsroadmgr for the opportunity to read this.
Alison (Cheetham) is a spiritualist, clairvoyant & psychic although she doesn’t style herself as an ‘end of the pier’ fortune-teller; hers is more of a calling, an imperative, to mediate messages from the ‘passed’ to the living. She is hampered along the way by her obnoxious spirit guide Morris and the ‘Fiends’, a gang of her Mother’s cronies and clients from her tragic childhood. This is a new idea for me, that spirit guides can be known to the medium, and can be capricious & mischievous...so we don’t all become serene higher beings on the next plain; I suppose there can only be so many native American chiefs & Tibetan monks in the afterlife!?
I think the book title and cover illustration need some explanation. The...er...large lady vacuuming is Alison, sucking up other peoples illnesses, torsions and strains, which is enough to make her physically sick, and a binge-eating insomniac.
And ‘Beyond Black’; mediums don’t like to mention death - the‘d’ word - so they talk in vague terms about passing and, "the place beyond black".
I really enjoyed the book but found the long middle section a bit of a drag – some better editing was needed I think? And, Collette, Alison’s partner/manager; despite some funny interplay and the interesting co-dependency between the 2 women, I found her cynicism made her unlikeable, as much as Alison’s vulnerability and weaknesses made her likeable, but i’m a bit of a sucker for pathos! We do see a glimpse of a softer Collette, but have to wait until p439, in response to a compliment from her useless estranged husband, "She looked at him and her heart was touched; where her heart would be."
It was very clever the way that Alison’s back story came through gradually, as she uncovered her own memories and pieced together clues from the other side – a bit like a psychic detective story. However, I would be hard-pushed to call this ‘black humour’, its all a little too unpleasant and raw to be even gallows humour, or maybe I’m being too sensitive?
This book has a ‘post script’ with background notes and an interview with the author. She explains her belief system, which I broadly agree with; ‘I am not a believer or an unbeliever’, and although she feels that literature/fiction can ‘expand our sympathies’, she finds the public displays of mediumship and the belief that our ancestors are watching over us to be, ‘threatening, unlikely, and slightly repulsive’.
My little desk dictionary defines clairvoyance as, ‘...the power of seeing in the mind events etc. that are in the future or out of sight’. To paraphrase St.Augustine (I think!), that faith is to believe without seeing. Well, I believe in Alison and her personal demons, and I don’t disbelieve in Morris, ‘Keef’ Capstick, Mr Aitkenside, Pikey Pete etc. ;)
Last, and probably least, Mantell has introduced me to a great new phrase, to explain the fiddly pointless pieces of architectural design (particularly on sub-urban executive-style housing), and equally the range of computer add-ons and gadgets, she describes as ‘gob-ons’.
I'm such a wimp! :o(
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Passing on to my Mum as I think she'll like it.