Author Hilary Mantel speaks during a presentation of her new novel ‘The Mirror & the Light’ at the Royal Festival Hall in London, Britain, March 6, 2020. — Reuters pic
LONDON, Sept 23 — Hilary Mantel, the best-selling British author of the award-winning Wolf Hall Tudor trilogy, died peacefully yesterday at the age of 70, her publisher said today.
Wolf Hall, published in 2009, and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, released three years later, both won the Booker Prize, an unprecedented win for two books in the same trilogy and making Mantel the first woman to win the award twice.
The final in the series, The Mirror & the Light, was published in March 2020 and long-listed for the Booker Prize. It won the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction in 2021, an award she also won for Wolf Hall.
“It is with great sadness that HarperCollins announces that bestselling author Dame Hilary Mantel DBE died peacefully, surrounded by close family and friends, yesterday,” a statement on the website of her publisher 4th Estate Books, which is owned by HarperCollins, said.
“Hilary Mantel will always be remembered as a truly original writer. She leaves behind a remarkable body of work which inspire readers around the world.”
The Wolf Hall trilogy, which has been serialised by the BBC and was also adapted for the stage, charted the fortunes of Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son who rose to be King Henry VIII’s most powerful adviser only to fall from grace and meet a gruesome end.
It has been translated into 41 languages and sold more than five million copies worldwide.
In a 2020 interview with The Guardian, Mantel described the books as being “about all the big important things that matter, about sex and power and high politics, statecraft and forgery and delusion and lies”.
Other best-selling authors took to Twitter to express their sadness at the news of her death, with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling saying: “We’ve lost a genius”.
Fellow Booker Prize winning author Bernardine Evaristo said: “So very sorry to hear about Hilary Mantel’s passing. We were so lucky to have such a massive talent in our midst.”
Born in Derbyshire on July 6, 1952, Mantel studied Law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University and first worked as a social worker. She turned to writing fiction while living in Botswana for five years.
Mantel also lived in Saudi Arabia, returning to Britain in the mid-1980s. Her first novel, Every Day is Mother’s Day, was published in 1985.
In total she authored 17 books, including non-fiction work, and was awarded a damehood in 2014 for services to literature.
“It is impossible to overstate the significance of the literary legacy Hilary Mantel leaves behind. Her brilliant Wolf Hall trilogy was the crowning achievement in an outstanding body of work,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Twitter.
Mantel drew criticism from many, including then Prime Minister David Cameron, in 2013 for comments in which she described Prince William’s then pregnant wife Kate as “a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung”.
“She was a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore,” Mantel had said in a lecture at the British Museum in London.
Mantel suffered chronic health problems for much of her life, speaking of the debilitating pain and fatigue caused by severe endometriosis, a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places.
She said her illness, and the infertility caused by treatment she received for it, had contributed to a temporary split from her geologist husband Gerald McEwen, whom she had wed at the age of 20. The pair divorced but soon remarried.
Her agent, Bill Hamilton at AM HEATH, said she had dealt with her health problems “courageously” and it had been a privilege to work with her.
“Her biting wit, stylistic daring, creative ambition and phenomenal historical insight mark her out as one of the greatest novelists of our time,” he said.
“There was always a slight aura of otherworldliness about her, as she saw and felt things us ordinary mortals missed, but when she perceived the need for confrontation she would fearlessly go into battle.” — Reuters