An Experiment in Love

An Experiment in Love

by Hilary Mantel

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.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.65
  • Pages: 256
  • Publish Date: July 15th 1997 by Holt Paperbacks
  • Isbn10: 080505202X
  • Isbn13: 9780805052022

What People Think about "An Experiment in Love"

I was so enchanted by Wolf Hall that I resolved to read Hilary Mantel's other novels. This is a coming-of-age story of Carmel as she leaves her Catholic girlhood, goes to college in the 60s, learns about and lives through sex, love and birth control while she studies and starves on her scholarship grant.

The tale follows Carmel from her girlhood through a demanding Catholic school for 11-18-years olds, and into her college times in London. There is plenty of flavoring in this this Irish-Catholic background, and in the sense of poverty of pocket book and ideas of some of the characters, in the class issues and and in the sense of the times and places that are vastly different. There is flavoring also in the wit of the narrator and the personalities of the young women as they come together in a group at the beginning of their college time.

This review could be 20 paragraphs long, that's how personal a connection this novel had for me in reaction. Also despite being in another country, the absolutely identical cultural context issues to the time we experienced are just incredible. Hilary Mantel, IMHO, is the best Boomer generation female writer in that art of putting people into their core cultural context almost instantly. And remembering the real shock when the 3 outfits you owned were all mini's and within a 1/2 year the mini's were out and you looked like a cartoon character if you tried to wear one within a room of 50 other girls in Midi's who also held "5-6-9 Shop" credit cards that you certainly didn't. We were all skinny, but not as skinny as Carmel in this novel. The 17 year old "Sophy's" in my time drove their own. Regardless, we had a nun in Sophomore Year who illustrated sexual coitus in great detail on a blackboard so that no one could plead ignorance. Hilary Mantel's description of what love is when she first hears Lynette's voice is one of the best I have ever come across.

The writing in this short book captured and held me, even though the plot had little intrinsic interest for me. It's clear early on that the narrator's mysterious and lumpish friend Karina, who has unpleasantly shadowed her life since she was a little girl, is going to do something hostile and violent; but when the act finally comes, it is still a surprise, as are the narrator's responses to it.

She is educated at Catholic schools, earns a scholarship as a passport out of her working class background, and fetches up at university in London.

between Carmel, her childhood friend Karina (an uncouth child of immigrants from an unspecified European country) and her high-school friend Julia(nne) (a sophisticated doctor's daughter). The "now" point of view, though very limited, hints that these young women were shaped by the events from the past (Julia, previously Julianne, is now a psychologist?

Karina's streak of malevolence is more than a little destructive.

Hilary Mantel is the bestselling author of many novels including Wolf Hall, which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.