The Giant, O'Brien
By Hilary Mantel
(Henry Holt and Co., Hardcover, 9780805044287, 208pp.)
Publication Date: October 1998
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The year is 1782; the place, London: the center of science and commerce, home to the newly rich and magnet to the desperately poor. Among the latter is the Giant, O'Brien, a freak of nature, a man of song and story who trusts in the old myths, in Irish kings and fairies. He has come to exhibit his size for money. He has, he soon finds, come to die. His opposite is a man of science, a society surgeon, the famed anatomist John Hunter, employer to a legion of grave robbers. He lusts after the Giant's corpse. Coin is offered. The Giant refuses. He will be buried, he will assume his throne in heaven. But money changes hands as friends are bribed. The Giant sickens, dies. Today, his bones may be seen by any curious stranger who visits the Huntarian Museum in London, part of the Royal College of Surgeons. Hailed as "an acute observer, fearless in exploring difficult subjects" (The Wall Street Journal), Mantel here tells of the fated convergence of two worlds--Ireland and England, poetry and science--on the cusp of a new century. As belief wrestles knowledge, so The Giant, O'Brien calls to us from a fork in the road. It is a tale of its time, a timeless tale.
Hilary Mantel is the author of seven previous novels, including Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (Owl Books, 0-8050-5203-8), An Experiment in Love (Owl Books, 0-8050-5202-X), and A Change of Climate (Owl Books, 0-8050-5205-4). She also wrote A Place of Greater Safety. Winner of the Hawthornden Prize, she lives in England.
"Smart, astringent, and marvelously upsetting fiction."-Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review