I will be honest, you have to be into this for the book to be enjoyable. I know that’s true about any book, but unlike a lot of essay collections from authors, whether they’re themed or not, this one is very particular about what it is, that it’s harder to dip in an out of this one like you might for a different kind of book. These are reprinted and collected essays from Hilary Mantel that she wrote for the London Review of Books, and so it’s as much an intro into Mantel’s nonfiction as it is an introduction to that publication. The New York Review of Books is not impossibly different from the London Review of Books, but it’s still not quite the same. You purchase a subscription or someone gifts you one, and you get the first issue and it’s impressive. A full color broadsheet wrapped in plastic and proclaiming who’s writing about what on the cover. And then you open it up, and each article is like 5000 words, even the book reviews, which often bring together multiple books and thinks through them. It’s wonderful! But it’s also a lot. Each issue is almost a book unto itself. And then not two weeks later, the next one comes, and then the next one, and then the next one. You leave them so company will know that you are someone who gets the LRB, but they come wrapped in plastic, so you have to remember to take them out, maybe crumple them a little first. But they keep coming.
This book, luckily, stops at 300 pages. So you know that it will stop at some point. The articles are wonderful, and Mantel is just an absolute pro, but you need that kind of closure. She also peppers various correspondence between her and her literary editors over the years, and those are fun too.