Review: Beyond Black, by Hilary Mantel

I have to admit this is not my usual fare:  “A modern-day medium and a jaded divorceé navigate the world of psychic fairs, until a crazed spirit guide threatens to pull them over to the beyond — a place from which they can never return.”  But it was written by Hilary Mantel, author of the Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall.  And it was nominated for the Orange Prize, just like Wolf Hall.  So I had high expectations, but I was ultimately disappointed and unable to finish this, my first book of 2012.

Alison is a spiritual medium, working fairs and stage shows where she brings her audience messages from those who have passed into “Spirit World.”  Colette, recently divorced, attends one of her shows and later becomes Alison’s business partner, helping to organize her diary and the accounts.  Alison is haunted by a troubled past, and by many spirits who speak to her routinely.  Among these is Morris, her “spiritual guide,” a presence from her childhood who is always hanging around and is, frankly, disgusting.  Colette brings a sense of order to Alison’s life, and working for Alison helps Colette land on her own two feet.

Weird?  Yes.  Intriguing?  Maybe.  But dreadfully slow-moving.  And then Princess Diana dies, and Alison & Colette meet up with other mediums and fortune-tellers.  I thought this might be interesting, but it was more of the same:  lots of talk, spirits intruding and making Alison sick, Colette fretting about, and Morris being disgusting.  Then Alison & Colette decide to try to get away from all this by buying a house in a new community, and that seems to take them forever.  Things weren’t looking good for them personally, and I figured anything that happened was going to take a long time.  Like another 165 pages.  I just didn’t have it in me.