Life at the millennium

4.2 Setting: Place

We have discussed how style and narrative technique work to create the worlds of the stories we read. However, the setting often makes a more immediate impact. The details of location and time period help the reader imagine the world of the text in visual, textual, and historical detail.

Individual activity: Place and space

Browse chapter 6 in Modern British Fiction, and then think about the setting in Beyond Black. Pay attention to general as well as specific details in Beyond Black.

  • What is the exact location?
  • Are there urban, suburban, and/or rural spaces?
  • What is the architecture like?
  • How is the natural landscape described?
  • Think about how this setting compares to the settings in Atonement.
  • Is Mantel’s Britain more recognisable or realistic than McEwan’s?
  • What kind of atmosphere or feeling is suggested by Mantel’s setting?
  • How would you describe places and spaces in Beyond Black?

Record your thoughts about these details and the representation of contemporary settings in your notes.  We shall return to place and space later this week and next.

Optional activity: Comparison

Read Fay Weldon’s review of Beyond Black and the interview with Hilary Mantel. Note the comments about the novel’s setting and representation of Britain. Did you make similar or different observations?

Further and optional reading

If you would like to learn more about Hilary Mantel, see her profile on the British Council website: Hilary Mantel