Book Review: An Experiment In Love by Hilary Mantel



An Experiment In Love by Hilary Mantel

4th Estate (Paperback), 1995

250 Pages 


It is London, 1970, Carmel McBain, in her first term at university, has cut free of her childhood roots in the north. Among the gossiping, flirtatious girls at Tonbridge Hall, she begins her experiments in life and love. But the year turns. The mini-skirt falls out of style and an era of concealment begins. Carmel’s world darkens, and tragedy waits in the wings.


This morning in the newspaper I saw a picture of Julia. She was standing on the threshold of her house in Highgate, where she receives her patients: a tall woman, wrapped in some kind of Indian shawl. There was a blur where he face should be, and yet I noted the confident set of her arms, and I could imagine her expression: professionally watchful, maternal, with that broad cold smile I have known since I was eleven years old. In the foreground, a skeletal teenage child tottered towards her, from a limousine parked at the kerb: Miss Linzi Simon, well-loved family entertainer and junior megastar, victim of the Slimmer’s Disease.


This was my first time reading An Experiment In Love.

I thought An Experiment In Love was great. I loved Mantel’s novel. I thought An Experiment In Love perfectly captured the experiences of Carmel and her friends growing up in the 70’s. Carmel was a great, sympathetic character. I liked the fact Mantel doesn’t make a huge deal of her eating disorder and writes about it as if it’s just an aspect of Carmel’s personality. In a way it was, to Carmel anyway and I thought Mantel handled it really well. I liked the way Mantel brought the 70’s and Carmel’s life as a Catholic alive. Carmel, Karina and Julia’s friendship is very unhealthy and complicated. Mantel does a great job at bringing these three very different girls to vivid life and exploring the complexity of the bond between them. The ending of An Experiment In Love took me by surprise, pleasantly so. Mantel has become one of my favourite writers and An Experiment In Love reinforces my admiration. 




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