The year is 1782; the place, London: the center of science and commerce, home to the newly rich and magnet to the desperately poor. Among the latter is the Giant, O'Brien, a freak of nature, a man of song and story who trusts in the old myths, in Irish kings and fairies. He has come to exhibit his size for money. He has, he soon finds, come to die. His opposite is a man of science, a society surgeon, the famed anatomist John Hunter, employer to a legion of grave robbers. He lusts after the Giant's corpse. Coin is offered. The Giant refuses. He will be buried, he will assume his throne in heaven. But money changes hands as friends are bribed. The Giant sickens, dies. Today, his bones may be seen by any curious stranger who visits the Huntarian Museum in London, part of the Royal College of Surgeons. Hailed as an acute observer, fearless in exploring difficult subjects (The Wall Street Journal), Mantel here tells of the fated convergence of two worlds--Ireland and England, poetry and science--on the cusp of a new century. As belief wrestles knowledge, so The Giant, O'Brien calls to us from a fork in the road. It is a tale of its time, a timeless tale.
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Henry Holt and Co.
October 01, 1998
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Excerpt from The Giant, O'Brien by Hilary Mantel
The Giant, O'Brien
one"Bring in the cows now. Time to shut up for the night."There came three cows, breathing in the near-dark: swishing with the tips of their tails, their bones showing through hide. They set down their hooves among the men, jostling. Flames from the fire danced in their eyes. Through the open door, the moon sailed against the mountain."Or O'Shea will have them away over the hill," Connor said.