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Publisher's Summary

Learning to Talk is a dazzling collection of short stories from the two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize and #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Wolf Hall Trilogy.

With a new foreword by Hilary Mantel.

In the wake of Hilary Mantel’s brilliant conclusion to her award-winning Wolf Hall Trilogy, this collection of loosely autobiographical stories locates the transforming moments of a haunted childhood.

Sharp and funny, these drawn-from-life stories begin in the 1950s in an insular northern village “scoured by bitter winds and rough gossip tongues.” For the child narrator, the only way to survive is to get up, get on, get out. In “King Billy Is A Gentleman,” the child must come to terms with the loss of a father and the puzzle of a fading Irish heritage. “Curved Is the Line of Beauty" is a story of friendship, faith, and a near-disaster in a scrap-yard. The title story sees our narrator ironing out her northern vowels with the help of an ex-actress with one lung and a Manchester accent. In “Third Floor Rising," she watches, amazed, as her mother carves out a stylish new identity.

With a deceptively light touch, Mantel illuminates the poignant experiences of childhood that leave each of us forever changed.

“A book of her short stories is like a little sweet treat...Mantel’s narrators never tell everything they know, and that’s why they’re worth listening to, carefully.” —USA Today

“Her short stories always recognize other potential realities...Even the most straightforward of Mantel’s tales retain a faintly otherworldly air.” —The Washington Post

A Macmillan Audio production from Henry Holt and Company.

©2022 Hilary Mantel (P)2022 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

“Part of her consistent brilliance lies in her attention to ghosts and mortgages, the light on the moors and 1980s educational policy, adolescent self-discovery and irregular accounting. These stories hold worlds as wide as those of her longest novels.” —Sarah Moss, The New York Times Book Review

“Those who’ve delighted for decades in Mantel’s fiction revel in her chameleonlike facility with language, her ability effortlessly to evoke wildly diverse characters, settings, and atmospheres . . . . The stories here enable us the more fully to appreciate Mantel’s wide-ranging gifts . . . . The overall effect of the collection is of a palimpsest, the powerfully atmospheric evocation of an unhappy mid-twentieth-century childhood in northern England.” —Claire Messud, Harper’s Magazine

“It’s a testament to Mantel’s brilliance as an author that even though the moments in these stories are subtle, the book somehow feels epic in its own way…And the result is magnificent. Learning to Talk is a lovely book, quiet but intense in its own way, and it proves—once again—that Mantel is one of the finest English-language authors working today.” —NPR

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