“Beyond Black” (2005)

Claire Armitstead wrote in The Guardian of 28.12.12:

” “Travelling: the dank oily days after Christmas.” So begins the novel which, with humble apologies to Thomas Cromwell, I believe is Hilary Mantel’s masterpiece. Beyond Black is a darkly comic account of clairvoyancy plied in the grim new towns of England’s motorway wastes; a ghost story that is also a beyond-black account of the adult mind’s struggles to live with childhood trauma…

The vocation of a story-teller is to exhume just such hidden histories – and there is a sense of Mantel using this story to dig beneath the floorboards of her own mind. Writers are a sort of psychic huckster, she seems to be saying, but they also have a responsibility to find forms and words for experiences that for most of us are beyond articulation, beyond belief. The pain and complexity they intuit can be deflected by comedy, sanitised by euphemism, distanced by metaphor but it can never be divorced.

Different readers of Beyond Black read it differently: one of its strengths is to provoke argument. Like the earth- and airside realities that Alison is condemned to straddle, this deeply disturbing, excruciatingly funny novel exists in many dimensions – all of them darker than dark.”

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