Thommy Ford Reads

A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library

“Terminus” by Hilary Mantel


It’s not generally agreed, it’s not much appreciated, that people are divided by all sorts of things, and that, frankly, death is the least of them.


You’ll find “Terminus” in Hilary Mantel’s collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: FIC MANTEL

Our nameless narrator spots his or her dead father on a busy London train then spends the rest of the story searching a bustling Waterloo Station for his ghost.

No, “Terminus” is not much on plot. It’s a tale more about voice and atmosphere than anything else. The voice is particularly tricky—cold and philosophical but reluctantly sentimental too. It wasn’t easy to relate to, didn’t remind me of anyone I know. I started to suspect that the narrator was as dead as its father, but maybe that’s too obvious a reading for such an oblique sort of story.

The setting’s much more grounded. What better place to reflect on the afterlife than on a dreary commute or in a busy train terminal? There’s the symbolism of it all, of course—journeys ending, or just beginning, or going off in all directions, or whatever—and then there’s those masses of the living going about getting somewhere seemingly important while the dead get lost in the shuffle.

It’s a pretty thoughtful, moody little story and fits in wonderfully with the rest of Hilary Mantel’s new collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.

Review by Matthew

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This entry was posted on November 29, 2014 by in Book Review, Saturday Shorts, Short Stories.
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