The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

Editorial reviews

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

Mantel’s great gift, beyond her acrobatic and sly sentences, her mysterious and layered narrative structures, her understanding of all the possible abuses of power — personal or political — is to make her readers feel as if our hearts have been dipped in acid, and to make us (the punters) grateful for the troubling and delicious view into all these different lives, deaths and lives after death.

That she manages to do all this — juggle the metaphorical meditations and political commentary in a darkly comic short story — is breathtaking, which is the word I'd use to describe this collection.

Mantel pokes and prods and scratches at our tiny collective wounds, opening them into something much bigger. Readers may find the stories uncomfortable, but also hard to put down.

Relentless bleakness, what Mantel may deem the opposite of sentimentality, is its own limitation, a shadow sentimentality that also omits at the author's whim large swatches of life: the loveliness and mercy. And for what?

“What would Anita Brookner do?” asks one of Mantel’s protagonists. The answer, we’d like to think, is this: She’d read Mantel’s latest, and she’d delight in it.

These are alluring portraits of interior disquiet, even if they don’t quite hold in the memory with the firmness you keep hoping for.

The storyteller is so devilishly good, we follow her gaily into the steaming loathsomeness of Eccles House with a smile on our face, the very reflection of Hilary Mantel’s own demonic grin.

Generally, these stories succeed best where they are furthest away from the machinery of their plots and devices.

Long story short: Ms. Mantel can’t kill off Margaret Thatcher. But it is not a matter of bloodthirstiness to wish Ms. Mantel were as firm here as she is in her best books, which require no dodging for their historical narratives, and which so brilliantly amplify what is already known.