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Learning to Talk

by Hilary Mantel

If, like me, you have a tendency to dismiss short stories in favour of something meatier - look again. This incisive collection revolving around a Northern childhood beginning in the 1950s may well convert you.

Extract

The distance between the two schools was only six or seven miles, but the social gulf was oceanwide. In Cheshire, people didn't live in rows of stone terraces, but behind pebble-dash or mock-Tudor facades. They cultivated lawns and flowering trees, and kept bird tables. They had family cars, known as 'little run-abouts'. At dinner time they had their lunch, and at teatime they had their dinner. They cleaned themselves up in things called bahthrums.

It was 1963.

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