Girish Mahajan

An Experiment in Love

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Originally published  1995
3.6/5 Goodreads

Author  Hilary Mantel
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Genres  Fiction, Speculative fiction
Similar  Hilary Mantel books, Fiction books

Ein liebesversuch an experiment in love

An Experiment in Love is a novel by Hilary Mantel first published in 1995 by Penguin Books.



A chance news article on a former schoolmate, Julia Lipcott, triggers a flood of memories for Carmel McBain, who reflects back on their time as school mates together. The novel oscillates between Carmel's upbringing in a convent school in Lancashire where she met Karina, the daughter of Eastern European immigrants, and the 1970s when she, Karina and Julia attended the University of London together.

Carmel meets Karina after an absence from school as a child and despite living in the same row of houses and walking to school every day together the two are not close. Carmel attributes this to the fact that, as an infant, she kicked a doll of Karina's. Class differences also separate the two girls; despite the fact that they both come from working-class families Karina's parents are even poorer than Carmel's.

At the age of ten, Carmel's mother pushes her to take the a scholarship exam for the Holy Redeemer, a wealthier Catholic school, and persuades Karina's mother Mary to let Karina apply as well. Both girls are successful and it is here they meet Julianne, the daughter of a doctor, for the first time.

All three are successful in applying to the University of London, where Carmel shares a dorm room with Julianne, who later changes her name to Julia, and Karina stays with Lynette, a wealthy only child. Karina and Carmel grow further apart. Carmel's university existence is marked by extreme poverty and hunger while Karina somehow manages to subsist with even less resources.


Author Margaret Atwood championed the book in a review in The New York Times when it was first published in the U.S., stating that the "pleasures of the novel [...] are many." Author Zadie Smith included the novel as part of a course syllabus which leaked online in 2013.


An Experiment in Love won the 1996 Hawthornden Prize.


An Experiment in Love Wikipedia

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