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How Does The Past Affect Your Daily Life?

Writer, researcher Hillary Mantel wrote: “History is not the past, it is the method we have evolved of organizing our ignorance of the past.”

This is a profound statement, one that I sat with for quite some time. We all have a history, and depending on our families, our relationships, the places where we have lived, the choices we have made, our lives have been relatively easy, challenging, engaging, or so difficult that we have struggled to bury or forget parts of that history.

Mantel uses the word ignorance, which makes me believe she is focussing on her life or other lives where the slow or fast movement of society’s culture, politics, advances and fall-backs might be what she is referring to. Mantel read and wrote about British history and in doing so found in the choices and actions of people of the past many reasons to question their choices.

Here is a very short biography: Hilary Mantel, one of Britain’s most decorated novelists, whose trilogy of books on the life of Thomas Cromwell — “Wolf Hall,” “Bring Up the Bodies” and “The Mirror and the Light” — received both critical acclaim and commercial success which landed her work on best-seller lists around the world, until she died at the age of 70.


If we had the chance to sit down with an author like Mantel what stories would we tell? Often our personalities guide us in those moments when we meet someone at a party or gathering and there is the inevitable exchange of information. Where do you live? What business are you in? Are you married? Do you have children? 

I love the story of an old friend, who when abandoned by her husband at some large business gathering, found herself walking aimlessly about the room, until a man approached her and began a conversation. He immediately asked her what she did for a living…and though Patricia knew this was the standard question, she found herself telling him she was a ballerina. And from there she somehow kept up the charade, which made the conversation tensely interesting, until as always happens, he talked about his work as a lawyer and then they separated, floating away into the crowd.

So if history, as Mantel says, is our way of organizing the past, my friend Pat created a new and exciting way to do that.


AT A PARTY, INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO A STRANGER, TESTING YOURSELF ON THE SUBJET YOU SELECT. Your performance, whether good or bad, might make a great topic for your next blog post.


And after reading this post, I’d love to read your answers. The vibrancy of our lives needs to be celebrated. And don’t you think our pasts always have something to do with where we are now?



Hillary Mantel

11 Responses

    1. WOW, thanks Laurie for reading and commenting. It means a lot. I believe as wives, mothers and writers we have much in common.
      Now I really need to read an entire Hillary Mantel novel. THANKS.

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Beth. …Separately, I have been a long term fan of Hilary Mantel. Before the Cromwell trilogy, I read many of her very introspective and personal novels. I think “A Change of Climate” may have been my favorite. The pre-Cromwell books almost seem a different author both in subject matter and style. I suspect that the earlier novels shared more of the real Hilary Mantel. But always possible that Mantel was playing at a party game!

    1. MONICA!! So happy to see you here. Thanks for your comment which of course is providing me with information I did not know. I confess I have not read any of her work, but found that statement amazing, something I wanted to ponder. Hope life is good, hugs, Beth

  2. For me (introvert), meeting strangers is stressful. But that question “what do you love about your life?” is perfect. Some people think that if they are “only” a stay at home Mom, or a retiree, they aren’t worth much. This totally detours around the usual questions people ask and I do want to know! I just never knew how to ask. As a bonus, it puts the other person in the limelight, and that’s where most people want to be.

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