And so my Book Of The Year (So Far) is Hilary Mantel’s Beyond black. It’s the story of a medium, Alison, who does psychic shows around the London orbital towns, and the spirits who haunt her, and her relationship with her cold, cynical manager/PA Collette, a woman who is also strangely alone in the world. It was a wonderful book, funny and black and depressing and witty. I loved the way it was about a woman who lives her life mostly in a spirit world, and yet the reality of the depressing conference centres and Harvesters she ‘performs’ in is so concrete: Hilary Mantel has a wonderful eye for the detail of everyday life.
Alison’s spirits are also brilliantly drawn: her spirit guide is no noble Cherokee or ancient Egyptian, but a sordid, nasty old man from the criminal underworld, forever looking for his mates Pikey Pete and Aitkenside. Perhaps it sounds a really strange book, but it gripped me so much that having picked up the cohabitee’s copy for an idle look I couldn’t put it down till I’d finished reading it. Really, all go out and read it. It was totally brilliant.