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“All the tales arose out of questions I asked myself about my early years,” author Hilary Mantel, who died this year, wrote in the preface to this short story collection. “I cannot say that by sliding my life into a fictional form I was solving puzzles—but at least I was pushing the pieces about.” The two-time Booker Prize winner and best-selling author considered the seven stories that encompass Learning to Talk to be not autobiographical but instead “autoscopic”—an out of body experience of sorts. Loosely based on Mantel’s childhood and adolescence in the English Midlands, many of these pieces examine fraught relationships with parents and stepparents. All of them are singularly haunted, written with both humanity and clarity. —Laura Zornosa

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