Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Short Stories by Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel is best known for her historical fiction based on the life of Thomas Cromwell. The first two, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, each won the Man Booker Prize. Her international audience anxiously awaits the last book of the trilogy.

Her short story collection, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, exhibits all of the wit, stellar prose, and black humor that so characterizes Ms. Mantel's writing. Some of the stories capture the cruelty of childhood, as in the chilling "Comma" and "The Heart Fails Without Warning." Others, like the title story, "The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher," reflect the author's unconcealed anger at the once all-powerful prime minister. As the narrator observes:

 I thought, there's not a tear in her. Not for the mother in the rain at the bus stop, or the sailor burning in the sea. She sleeps four hours a night. She lives on the fumes of whiskey and the iron in the blood of her prey. (p. 232)

Only the most skillful of writers could write a comic story about politically-motivated murder, leaving the reader sympathizing with the killer and his surprising accomplice.

To say any more about the stories would spoil their shock value. Just know that this reader found each one a gem - an analysis of the good and evil found in every one of us.

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