Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
High art meets soap opera in this beautifully written but high-strung sixth novel from Britain's Hawthornden-winner Mantel. Ralph and Anna Eldred are newlyweds in the mid-1960s, when Ralph is offered a position as a missionary in South Africa. In the town of Elim, the two provide day care and food and soon begin to identify with their black neighbors. Naturally, the government is displeased, and they are eventually jailed, then moved to another mission in Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana), where hostile natives commit a terrible crime against them. This crime casts a long shadow over the novel's main action, in which the Eldreds must face new threats to their faith in God and in each other. Thirty years later, the couple is still performing good works, with Ralph running a charitable trust in London and the family taking in various lost souls at its Norfolk farmhouse. Beneath the precocious banter of their children (who learn early to divide these visitors into two categories: Sad Cases and Good Souls), the secret of Ralph's and Anna's ordeal in Africa remains a source of anguish and fearful curiosity and drives the generations apart even as it binds them, helplessly and mysteriously, together. Eventually, one son takes up with a woman who lives in quasi-isolation with her mother, selling crafts and produce from a roadside stand, and Ralph begins an affair with the girlfriend's mother. With subtle foreshadowings, suspense to spare and just a few blatant authorial nudges, these family matters come to a head. This gripping work is sure to raise Mantel's star with American readers. (July) FYI: Mantel is only the second woman to win Britain's prestigious Hawthornden Prize since its inception in 1919. Owl is publishing this paperback first American edition in conjunction with her third novel, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, also new to American readers. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Both of these volumes offer some unusual doings. Change (1994) finds a former missionary wife and husband dealing with the latter's affair. The incident brings up a hidden evil the couple encountered in Africa 20 years earlier, of which neither one spoke. Ghazzah Street (1988) has protagonist Frances Shore relocating to Saudi Arabia. In her apartment each night she swears she hears weeping and voices in the apartment above her, but her neighbors insist it is empty. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Acclaimed British novelist Mantel (An Experiment in Love, 1996, etc.; see below) offers a provocative take on men and women of goodwill side-swiped by unsuspected evil and betrayal in places as far apart as Botswana and England. The story, moving between the past and recent present, is a cautionary, compassionate tale of a model family almost destroyed by its secrets. At the start, Ralph Eldred has just learned that sister Emma, a doctor, has had a longtime affair with the married and recently deceased Felix. Ralph, whose life has been spent helping ""sad cases and good souls,"" is shaken by this ""failure of self-knowledge."" As a young man, his wealthy and devout father forced him to give up his plans to study geology and to work instead at the inner-city mission. When offered a posting to South Africa, Ralph accepted because it would take him far away from his father. He marries Anna, as principled as he, and they settle into mission life. It's now the early 1960s, apartheid's apogee, and the two routinely confront police brutality and corruption. They become activists, eventually find themselves imprisoned, and then, released from jail, accept a remote posting in Botswana, where Anna gives birth to the twins Kit and Matthew. Later, a malevolent servant stabs Ralph and abducts the twins. Only Kit is found. Back in England, Ralph and Anna have more children but never tell them about the lost baby. Kit, however, now a college graduate, is troubled by dreams of Africa; Anna, still heartsore and angry over losing her child, feels alienated from Ralph; son Julian is adrift, and Ralph himself finds his charity work meaningless. He himself now slips into an affair, discovery of which finally provides a necessary catharsis. Emotions are vented, secrets revealed, and the family's love and faith are found to be stronger than suspected. A subtle exploration in vividly detailed settings of the complex workings of the hearts of well-intentioned people. Intelligent and moving. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.