Beyond Black by

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ISBN: 0007157762

Travelling: the dank oily days after Christmas. The motorway, its wastes looping London: the margin’s scrub-grass flaring orange in the lights, and the leaves of the poisoned shrubs striped yellow-green like a cantaloupe melon.

Alison is a medium, she travels around London passing on messages from those who have “passed”, or at least passing on some of the messages. Because the dead are just people after all, and not all people are nice, or worth listening to. And then there is the fact that they can get confused and lose their memories after death. Or even forget who they were. And sometimes they are downright malicious.

Alison isn’t alone, she has her manager/assistant Colette, who is recently divorced and who in many ways, wants to believe, yet never really does.

A terrible childhood, abuse, murder, violence, neglect haunts Alison. She has to deal with the spirits as they try to pass on their messages, and their pettiness. And she has to deal with her spirit guide, Morris. He is about as far from the ideal guide as you can imagine. Foul mouthed, mean spirited and hostile, Alison wishes he’d move on, and stop her remembering her past.

“Fucking stuck-up cow” he said, as Colette went out. “White-faced fucking freak. She’s like a bloody ghoul. Where did you get her, gel, a churchyard?”

And when he starts bringing back friends things get much worse, because they are all men from Alison’s childhood. And childhood was not a good time for Alison, with her prostitute, neglectful, drugged mother:

and her mum says, so am I black and white, am I stood in the fucking meadow, and if not, what leads you to believe I am a fucking cow?

I really enjoyed this book. It is a wonderful blend of light and dark, of horror and humour.

Colette was puzzled by the woman, who turned most of her statements into questions. It must be what they do in Surrey, she decided; they must have had it twinned with Australia

Never turning into farce, and at its heart it is about Alison, and her relationship with people. Colette being the main other in her life. Have to say though that I never warmed to Colette, she is very unsympathetic, and her thoughts on the overweight Alison can be very off putting. Not to mention her controlling temperament. Sometimes you wish that Al would just snap back, or refuse to go along with whatever diet Colette is forcing her to stick to.

Well worth picking up, I’m glad the cover of this book attracted my attention as I was browsing in the three for two section.

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1 Response

  1. 8 January 2007

    […] Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black […]