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Monday, May 18, 2015

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mandel

I loved the two books that the author has written that have won the Man Booker Prize (Wolf Hall and Bring up the Babies), and am eagerly awaiting the third installment in that trilogy.  The books are both character driven with complex plot trajectories, mixed in with the history of England on the brink of the Renaissance.  When this collection of short stories showed up on the 2014 New York Times 100 Notable Novels list, I put it on my reading list.

For those who love the aforementioned books, this is largely nothing like them.  As you would expect from a short story, the narrative arc is foreshortened, and that is very close to the exact opposite of those books.  Some of these short stories are just several pages in length.  What this book has in common with the novels that I have read is the introduction of a wide range of interesting and varied characters.  The book opens and closes with what I think are the strongest stories, with one in between on their par.  In these stories, women and men have a complicated relationship that is party of their making and partly a product of the circumstances that they live in.  That is the gift of the author, and it does glimmer through in some of these stories.  I should also note that I am not a fan of the short story, and that I am someone who does not shy away from a complex 600+ page book, so you really do have to take what I say with a grain of salt.

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