Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"The Heart Fails Without Warning" by Hilary Mantel

"The Heart Fails Without Warning" by Hilary Mantel (2010, 15 pages)

One practical use for short stories is as a way of "trying out" a writer before you attempt a longer work.   There are millions of readers without access to libraries so this is an important thing to lots of people.    

I have lately been looking at the anthologies of short stories available on the Amazon Kindle store for the Ipad from which a sample can be downloaded.  (Remember you do not need a kindle or an Ipad to read kindle edition books, just the free Amazon supplied software.)  I have found in these samples you get the introduction to the anthology and one to three complete stories.    You also get the table of contents so you have all you need to make an informed buying decision.

In Best European Fiction 2011 a story by Hilary Martel, "The Heart Fails Without Warning" is included in the sample.  I was really glad to see this as I have been pondering if I wanted to invest the time it would take to read her 2009 Booker Prize Novel Wolf Hall.  Wolf Hall is set in England in the 1520s and centers on court intrigue in the reign of Henry VIII.   It was a very blogged about novel and most people liked it a lot while calling it "challenging".   

"The Heart Fails Without Warning" by Hilary Martel (1952, UK) is just a perfect short story.   It  introduces the characters, it sets up and resolves a conflict and crisis in a way that helps the characters and perhaps the reader increase their insight into the human condition.  It is also a study in loneliness and about those who have no voice for themselves.   The prose style is simple, elegant and of great beauty.

Basically the story is about a family, a husband who works very hard and long but does not speak much, his wife who on the surface runs the family, the daughter who is has a very terrible eating disorder which is causing her to waste a way to a skeleton, and their other teen age daughter who is quite the brat but I liked her anyway.   

The family life is totally centered on keeping the one daughter alive.   The other daughter greatly resents this and may see what the real problem is where here parents do not.   Anyone who has ever had their lives dominated by the illness of a loved one will understand this story more than they may care to admit.   There is really high intelligence behind this story.   

I will leave the rest of the plot unspoiled but I have added Wolf Hall to my TBR list based on this story.  

Please share your experience with other works by Mantel, including Wolf Hall, with us.

Mel u


Mystica said...

Wolf Hall was a huge disappointment for me but I am always willing to give other books a fair go.

Mel u said...

Mystica-sorry to hear you did not like Wolf Hall

Suman said...

I haven't read 'Wolf Hall' yet, but I did have an enjoyable experience with her 'Beyond Black' last year. Punched with black humour and bordering on the disturbing, it is a story of the fantastic where the dead and the living coexist giving rise to all sorts of odd moments. It centers around the life of Alison, a psychic (a rather unusual heroine), who not only has to deal with the ghostly callings of her clients but also has some nasty, tormenting ghosts of her own. The most striking element in the novel, I feel, is Mantel's language; the powerful irony in particular, which gives the imagination a real kick. A must read!

Gavin said...

Wolf Hall was one of my favorite books from 2010. My review is here.

Anonymous said...

I loved, loved Wolf Hall. It's one of my favorite books. I found it inventive, astonishing and utterly absorbing even though it's historical fiction which I don't ordinarily read. I happy to see that she also writes wonderful short stories. Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mel: I very frequently get samples for my kindle-helping me figure out if I want a book. But it also seems to scratch my acquisition itch without buying the book. I had not thought of using it for short stories or of short stories as a test of whether I would enjoy an author. Great suggestion, Ruby

cessie said...

You know... I actually hadn't considered short stories being a way of getting to know an author better. In general I'm not much of a short stories reader because I like to get absorbed into a story for a bit longer. But it is a good idea!

Unknown said...

I read a book by Hilary Mantell about school girls in a private school. For the life of me I cannot recall the title. I think the word 'heart' was in it. I really enjoyed it. I've not read Wolf Hall, which I think is a departure for her, but I have a couple of others by her on my TBR shelf.

Mel u said...

Suman. I will.look for the work you suggested. Thanks bery much

Gavin. I read your post. I wil for sure add Wolk hall to my 2912 list

Kimnareads. Good to hear your view on Wolf Hall

kathy. Yes the kindle sample feature is perfect for short story collections

Cessie. I once felt just as you do about the short atory

c b jmes. Sounds like almost everyone likes mntel