Lindy Burleigh

Death in the Family

Beyond Black

By

Fourth Estate 451pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The cover of Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel’s first novel in seven years, is emblazoned with the statement ‘There are powers at work in this country about which we have no knowledge’. The claim by Paul Burrell, Princess Diana’s butler, that the Queen whispered this minatory aside to him is almost certainly entirely untrue but the existence of unknown powers is the starting point of Hilary Mantel’s wickedly funny and often unsettling exploration of spiritualism, set in a godless and bleakly materialistic England at the end of the last millennium and the beginning of the new. The protagonist, Alison Hart, is an unusually gifted travelling spiritualist who foresees Diana’s death and is visited by the dead princess. It is typical of the grim humour in the novel that Diana’s petulant and confused spirit tells the crowd of psychics who are clamouring for a word from her to ‘bog off now and let me get some privacy’.

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