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I love Hilary Mantel. Her writing has such precision. She misses nothing and finds exactly the right way to phrase her observations.
Unfortunately, even her skill did not save Every Day is Mother’s Day. This was Mantel’s first book, the story of a mentally unfit daughter, her disturbed mother, the social worker assigned to their case, and the married man who sleeps with the social worker. There is an undercurrent of supernatural malevolence thrown in for good measure.
The writing is not quite as polished as it is in Mantel’s later books, but it’s still very good. What I couldn’t handle was the unrelenting dreariness. The characters are all unhappy people living bleak, miserable lives, but they are all so horrible to each other, so mean and malicious, that it’s hard to feel much for any of them. On Wikipedia, they call it a “black comedy,” which really stretches the definition of comedy. (A Place of Greater Safety, Mantel’s novel about the French Revolution, is more cheery.) There are some highlights here, like a dinner party that really is amusing, where nothing escapes Mantel’s keen eye and sharp tongue, but aside from that, this book is weaker than her later novels.