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But what of his own story as he is led from Ireland to seek his fortune beyond the seas in England? The Surprising Irish Giant may be the sensation of the season but only his compatriots seem to attend to his mythic powers of invention.


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John Hunter, celebrated surgeon and anatomist, buys dead men from the gallows and babies' corpses by the inch. Where is a man as unique as The Giant to hide his bones when he is yet alive?

Book review: Hilary Mantel's *The Giant, O'Brien*

The Giant, O' Brien is an unforgettable novel; lyrical, shocking and spliced with black comedy. She was educated at a convent and later studied law.

After ten years abroad in Africa and the Middle East, she returned to Britain in to make a career as a writer. Her novel Beyond Black was longlisted fo OverDrive uses cookies and similar technologies to improve your experience, monitor our performance, and understand overall usage trends for OverDrive services including OverDrive websites and apps.

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  • The Giant, O'Brien by Hilary Mantel | LibraryThing!
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  • Without these cookies, we won't know if you have any performance-related issues that we may be able to address. These cookies help us understand user behavior within our services. O'Brien is portrayed as a teller of folk tales and as a poet who aims to save enough money to rebuild the ruined Mulroney's Tavern where as a youth he learned to be a storyteller. In contrast, John Hunter is obsessed with science; with an insatiable desire to experiment on both the living and the dead, both man and animals; employing body-snatchers to supply his needs.

    When he hears of O'Brien's arrival in London, Hunter determines to obtain his body.

    Charles Byrne, the Irish Giant - the original documentary.

    Ominously O'Brien is still growing and it appears Hunter may not have too long to wait. In the postscript to the paperback edition of the novel Mantel writes 'In a way I feel, more than with any other book, that I have absolutely no responsibility for what I put on the page'. She explains that she had initially planned to write 'a big, realistic historical novel about John Hunter, the great surgeon, collector and experimentalist', but as she began to write she had a sudden revelation that she herself was Irish, 'Somehow the giant's story became part of this awakening and the feeling grew in me that in order to find myself I had to go back and capture that voice, that Irishness.

    The Giant, O'Brien

    So the novel became about the giant utterly, and the giant's people, and the giant's transition from speaking Irish to speaking English, exploring what is lost, and what is gained in the process. It was as if something came into the room, opened its mouth and sang. I just wrote the song out and it was over'.