Maggie Thatcher and Hilary MantelThe best kind of  killer is one who can hide in plain sight  and  is able to pass unnoticed in a crowd.

Hilary Mantel does not look like an assassin. On the contrary, she seems so prim and proper.  I’m sure she often gets mistaken for a Tory.  She is always well turned out, wears pastel shades and her hairstyle is not so dissimilar to Thatcher’s.

This is what makes her short story The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – August 6th 1983,( published in The Guardian) seem so out of character.

It has caused a minor storm in a tea-cup among those who still misguided enough to argue that Thatcher saved, rather than ruined,  the nation. To those who merrily sang Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead las year, Mantel is an unlikely heroine.

llustration by Henry McCausland.

llustration by Henry McCausland.

In her story, the killer aims his widow-maker rifle at Mrs T’s  “glittering helmet of hair” after taking tea (milk and sugar please) at the home of an accommodating Windsor resident.

The genteel Englishness of the scene  is at odds with the immensity of the imaginary crime and the loathing that lies behind it. Mantel has made no secret of her detestation of a woman she called an “anti-feminist, psychological transvestite” .

I share Mantel’s hatred for the Iron Witch but her enjoyably provocative tale seems so much like a piece of juvenilia that I’m surprised she is publishing it now.

Perhaps she wants to cock a snoop at the establishment after gaining two Booker Prizes and having her brilliant fictionalised histories of Thomas Cromwell adapted by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC.

It’s a story that positively yells out ‘I’m not the woman you think I am’. Just goes to show how appearances can be deceptive.

 

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