Rest in Peace, Hilary Mantel

“Hilary had a unique outlook on the world – she picked it apart and revealed how it works in both her contemporary and historical novels – every book an unforgettable weave of luminous sentences, unforgettable characters and remarkable insight. She seemed to know everything,” her editor Nicholas Pearson said. “For a long time she was critically admired, but the Wolf Hall trilogy found her the vast readership she long deserved.”The Guardian

Website Photo

I will miss her and her words, but then, I’m an expedient reader and so what I really miss is what her next novel might have been. I read a fair number of news stories about her death but don’t remember seeing whether or not she had a novel in progress.

Personally, I found the Wolf Hall Trilogy the best series of books I ever read. Everything about it was impeccable. And, as often happens with historical fiction, it clarified a lot of events and viewpoints that weren’t covered in our history classes unless we had a strong focus on Henry VIII.

Then, too, it (the universe) gives me a nudge when authors younger than I suddenly die. When I was young, I wasn’t alarmed when old writers died because, well, they were old. But now, I’m less casual about the notion of old authors who are here today and gone tomorrow.

I have a strange feeling that while she was a famous, respected, bestselling author, most readers wouldn’t recognize her name. When I said RIP Hilary Mantel on my Facebook profile, nobody responded. Not that I expect everyone out there to follow the Booker Prize; I do think everyone should recognize her name. Apparently not. Maybe that’s because she was British and outside the realm of the people, American audiences follow–not counting the royal family and rock stars.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Maybe someday a new novel will appear that was in progress when she died. That would be good.



Book Review: ‘We Hear the Dead’

Rap twice for “yes.” Rap once for “no.”

If spirits weren’t talking through raps, taps and other assorted sounds in the darkened rooms, how were the girls doing it? Some said Maggie and Kate Fox were frauds when they first claimed to hear the dead in Hydesville, New York in 1848.

Perhaps Maggie, the protagonist, had a gift for counseling and perhaps her more adventurous sister Kate truly had the evolving abilities of a medium, even though the whole thing began as a prank. Their mother believed more than they believed. Their older sister Leah saw that if “spirit circles” were properly presented, there was money to be made.

Welcome to the world presented in living color through the well-focused lens of Dianne K. Salerni’s very readable novel “We Hear the Dead.”

While the dashing military hero and Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane, who had his eyes on Maggie, did not believe the rapping came from the spirit world, many of the rich and famous did. The Fox sisters, who were born on the wrong side of the tracks, became sought after by high society. One of the strong points of this novel is the dynamic interplay between historical and fictional characters in believable settings as the sisters travel and attract press attention and large audiences.

Before you begin reading “We Hear the Dead,” you will know that the story is true. As you read, you’ll quickly discover that the Salerni’s wonderful historical novel not only brings the Fox sisters to life, but the dead with whom they spoke as well.

“We Hear the Dead” is real because Salerni knows how to weave solid research and meaningful historical details into a novel that begins with two confessions, moves on to the haunting, and remains strong and vital throughout.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Garden of Heaven,” “The Sun Singer” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”