An Experiment in Love Paperback – Jun 12 2007
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Hilary Mantel's seventh novel examines the pressures on women during the 1960s to excel--but not be too successful--in England's complex hierarchy of class and status. Pushed by a domineering mother, Carmel McBain climbs her way through the pecking order and ends up at London University as an acquiescent and undernourished teenager, achieving the status so desired by her mother, but too weak to make use of it or pose a threat to anyone. Though this is Carmel's story, it reflects on a generation of girls desiring the power of men, but fearful of abandoning what is expected and proper. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Carmel McBain is a bright Lancashire-Irish child whose mother is fond of telling her, "your father's not just a clerk, you know"-though, in fact, he is. As Carmel grows up, this snobbish tendency metamorphoses into the brutal driving force of the girl's young life. As a teenager, with ambition bullied into her, she alternates between nights spent locked in her room to study and days filled with the "routine sarcasms of nuns." Carmel's move from posh convent to London university is a lonely one; at school, she undergoes a disturbing loss of self-awareness. Between her mother's ruthlessness and the cruelties of the nuns, Carmel's self-worth has been damaged, with near fatal results. Mantel's seventh novel (but only her second to appear here, after A Place of Greater Safety, 1993) is a powerful coming-of-age story that meticulously highlights the patterns of self-inflicted cruelty sometimes taught to young women. It perfectly conveys the confusion of one contemporary Catholic girl, and provides a subtly moving take on the mystery of anorexia nervosa. Despite its grim subject, the writing, replete with sharp humor and evocative details of 1960s England, is never self-indulgent. Irony prevails stoutly over sentimentality, while the finale delivers a surprising twist of horror that will shake readers to the core.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Carmel McBain is the daughter of a lower class English family. She is imprisioned at home by a domineering mother who makes a point of "doing everything" for her daughter while chiding her for being useless. She is constrained at school by her mother's high, harsh, expectations of academic excellence. She is engulfed in between by the inescapable "friendship" proximity and her mothers desires have forced her into with a neighbor and classmate whom she doesn't care for and with whom she has nothing in common.
Her academic success lands her in a highly regarded local Catholic girls prep school where she is again paired with her "friend" and further buffeted by the expectations, traditions and social constraints cointained within that environment.
Finally, at college in London, her "friend" still in tow, along with another classmate from the prep school, Carmel, though seemingly free of the constraints that dominated her childhood, cannot, in fact, sever those bonds. She is now sufficiently free, however, to analyze her situation, as well as those of her classmates, and can see, if not overcome, the various results that these limitations and expectations have had on her and her various classmates. The effects are often severe: Sexual abandon and the consequences those acts engender in a traditional, paternalistic society; Illness (particularly anorexia); and, in the end, a particular act of revenge/release with very grave effects and consequences.
Although not a book for the faint of heart, this nevertheless stands as a extraordinary piece of storytelling and social/psychological examination of the anomie often engendered within families in our modern society.
Most recent customer reviews
I devoured this book in about a day. I found it literary, witty, and darkly fascinating. The people and places Mantel brings to life here evoked my own Catholic upbringing and... Read morePublished on April 8 2001 by Nancy
What I learned from this book: thin girls are beautiful, fragile, and good; fat girls are ugly, and either stupid (Claire) or evil (Karina); Men are all the same, cookie cutter... Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2000