The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories

The only negative thought I had while frolicking through this collection of stories was that it functioned as a distraction for Mantel, that she should have been hard at work churning out the third installment of the Cromwell trilogy I anxiously await instead of goofing off and showing off her skills. But I’m sure it was a welcome break, to pull herself out of the 16th century and shove up some contemporary prose. The stories range from childhood memories of spying on a “rich” house with a bedraggled friend who she still recognizes decades later, daft and pushing a baby carriage full of laundry; to unwelcome visits of a Pakistani man while living abroad in Saudi Arabia, trapped inside and stripped of wandering rights as a woman, waiting for her husband to come home but being polite at first and then frustrated with the Pak’s visits (interrupting her writing); to various shades of horror within marriages: The Long QT detailing the quick death of a wife whose heart fails when spotting her husband canoodling in the kitchen with a young woman, perhaps from shock, perhaps from laughter, Winter Break showcasing the power struggle of traveling spouses, knowing exactly what her husband will say and being irritated by everything he does (their cab runs over a child, or is it a kid goat, no it’s a human hand they spot in the trunk near their luggage), Offenses Against The Person dips into the life of a cheating father who then runs off with his secretary and has twins, but the secretary confides in her step-daughter that he’s staying out late and did he do that previously? the cheating cycle continuing. I very much enjoyed How Shall I Know You?, giving us a glimpse inside the non-glamorous life of a traveling lecturing author, staying in horrid hotels and left without food or water. The Heart Fails Without Warning was a frightening story about the self-destruction of an anorexic girl, her younger sister witnessing the decline, the withering away, goading her “Oh look, a relative of yours” when there was a picture of a skeleton in the morning paper. And of course, the eponymous story, where an Irish assassin sneaks his way into a home and sets out to right some wrongs by offing Thatcher. “Rejoice,” he echoes Thatcher’s response during the announcement of the recapture of South Georgia in the Falkland Islands, “Just rejoice at that news and congratulate our forces and the marines.” A reporter asks, “Are we going to declare war on Argentina, Mrs. Thatcher?” Thatcher pauses, says “Rejoice.”