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Derbyshire Threesome

October 14, 2012

The love life of Hilary Mantel’s parents

Fascinating titbit this week from a New Yorker profile of Hilary Mantel by Larissa Macfarquhar (Oct 16 2012). Mantel, the best selling, Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies grew up in modest circumstances in the village of Hadfield in Northern Derbyshire.

“From when she was about eight to when she was eleven, she lived with her two brothers, her mother, her father, and her mother’s lover, Jack. It was hard to say when Jack had moved in; he’d been coming over for tea more often until one afternoon he didn’t leave. He moved into her mother’s bedroom, and her father moved to a room down the hall. This arrangement had a number of consequences. Her family was talked about, and children at school asked her who slept in which bed. Her mother’s parents, to whom she had been very close, no longer spoke to their daughter. It was not possible for her mother to go to the shops. At first, she’d had only one brother, and then a second brother was born. After she was old enough to understand where babies came from, she assumed that this second brother must be Jack’s child, and perhaps Jack and her mother did as well, but when he was grown he turned out to look so much like her father that it was clear he was not. Her mother, then, was sleeping with both men.”

It’s not just the threesome, but the mixture of normality and its opposite. Jack staying on after tea and her father moving down the hall, as if this sort of thing happened all the time. But her grandparents still disapproved and the school children asked where everyone  slept.

Eventually her father moved out, and her mother, Jack Mantel and the children moved to Cheshire, where the children took his name, and they pretended to be married. In the late 1950s these things still mattered, but not everyone was fooled.

Click here for the full article.

Jim Thornton

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