Hilary Mantel, the Booker Prize-winning author of the critically acclaimed Wolf Hall saga of historical novels, passed away. She was 70.
Mantel died “sudden but peacefully” surrounded by close family and friends, publisher HarperCollins said Friday.
Mantel is credited with reinvigorating historical fiction with Wolf Hall and two sequels about 16th-century English power broker Thomas Cromwell, right-hand man to King Henry VIII.
The publisher called Mantel “one of the greatest English novelists of this century.”
“Her beloved works are considered modern classics. She will be greatly missed,” the statement said.
LISTEN l Hilary Mantel in conversation with CBC’s Writers & Company:
Writers and company58:47Hilary Mantel concludes her blockbuster Tudor trilogy with The Mirror & the Light
Mantel has won the Booker Prize twice, for: Wolf Hall in 2009 and the sequel Raise the bodies in 2012. The last installment, The mirror and the lightappeared in 2020.
The success of Wolf Hall propelled Mantel from an acclaimed but modest-selling novelist to a literary superstar. Before that, she had written works including: A place with more safetyset during the French Revolution, and Beyond blackabout the life of a psychic medium.
“I’m always aware of untold stories,” she told CBCs Writers & Company in 2012. “Historical fiction is in many ways a project of recovery, rediscovery, sometimes rehabilitation.”
Everyone at the Booker Prizes is deeply saddened by the passing of Hilary Mantel, four-time nominee and winner of the Booker Prize in 2009 and 2012. We extend our sincere condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.
Mantel turned Cromwell, a shadowy political fixer, into a compelling, complex literary hero. Cromwell was an architect of the Reformation who helped the king realize his wish to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. The Vatican’s refusal to annul Henry’s first marriage led the monarch to reject the pope’s authority and install himself as head of the Church of England.
‘wiping the slate clean’
It is a period in history that has inspired many books, films and television series, from A man for all seasons until The Tudors. But Mantel managed to make the familiar story new and exciting.
“The first thing I did then was go back to the historical record — to try to forget what I’d read in biographies — and I started to access a completely different story,” she said. told CBC Radio in 2020. “I saw how historians have carried along not only prejudice but also mistakes, from one generation to the next.
“So I felt like I was wiping the slate clean and trying to see Cromwell as if it was my first time.”
We are heartbroken at the passing of our beloved author, Dame Hilary Mantel, and our thoughts are with her friends and family, especially her husband, Gerald. This is a devastating loss and we can only be thankful that she left us such a wonderful body of work. pic.twitter.com/d8bzkBBXuH
The first two novels of the trilogy were adapted for a BBC series broadcast in 2015 starring Mark Rylance as Cromwell, Damian Lewis as Henry VIII and Claire Foy as the king’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Illness Affects Marriage, Career Path
Nicholas Pearson, Mantel’s longtime editor, said her death was “devastating”.
“Last month I sat with her on a sunny afternoon in Devon, talking excitedly about the new novel she had begun,” he said. ‘It is unbearable that we will no longer enjoy her words. What we do have is an oeuvre that will be read for generations.’
Mantel studied law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University and first worked as a social worker. She turned to fiction writing while living in Botswana for five years with her geologist husband Gerald McEwen.
The couple divorced, a split Cloak attributed to her illness and the infertility caused by the treatment she received for it, but later remarried.
She would later write the memoirs Giving up the ghost (2003), describing years of ill health, including undiagnosed endometriosis. She once said that the years of illness messed up her dream of becoming a lawyer, but turned her into a writer.
her first novel, Everyday is Mother’s Daywas published in 1985. In total she wrote 17 books, including non-fiction.
In 2014, she would be awarded a damehood in Britain for her contributions to literature.