Hilary Mantel, author of “Wolf Hall” Tudor saga, dies at 70

LONDON – Hilary Mantel, the Booker Prize-winning author who turned Tudor power politics into a page-turning novel in the popular “Wolf Hall” historical trilogy, has died, her publisher says. know on Friday. She was 70.

Publisher HarperCollins said Mantel passed away “suddenly but peacefully” on Thursday while surrounded by close family and friends.

Mantel is credited with reviving historical fiction with “Wolf Hall” and two sequels about 16th-century English power broker Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s right-hand man.

The publisher said Mantel was “one of the greatest British novelists of this century.”

“Her beloved works are considered modern classics. She will be greatly missed,” it said in a statement.

Mantel has twice won the prestigious Booker Prize for “Wolf Hall” in 2009 and its sequel “Bring Up the Bodies” in 2012. Both have been adapted for stage and television.

The final installment of the trilogy, “The Mirror and the Light”, was published in 2020.

Nicholas Pearson, Mantel’s longtime editor, said her death was “brutal.”

“Just last month, I sat with her on a sunny afternoon in Devon, while she excitedly talked about the new novel she had begun working on,” he said. “That we won’t take the pleasure of any of her words is intolerable. What we have is a work that will be read for generations. “

Before “Wolf Hall,” Mantel was a critically acclaimed author but sold novels on topics ranging from the French Revolution (“A Safer Place”) to the life of a telepathic medium. (“Beyond Black”).

She also wrote a memoir, “Giving Up the Ghost,” about her bad years, including undiagnosed endometriosis that left her infertile.

She once said that years of illness destroyed her dream of becoming a lawyer but turned her into a writer.

Mantel’s literary agent, Bill Hamilton, said the author dealt “severely” with chronic health issues.

“We will miss her immensely, but as a beacon to writers and readers, she left an extraordinary legacy,” he said.

Born in Derbyshire, central England in 1952, Mantel attended a convent school, later studying at the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield. She worked as a social worker at a geriatric hospital, an experience she drew on for her first two novels, “Every Day Is Mother’s Day,” published in 1985, and “The Mother’s Day.” vacant possession”, published the following year.

During the 1970s and 1980s, she lived in Botswana and Saudi Arabia with her husband, Gerald McEwen, a geologist.

Mantel has been a published novelist for nearly 25 years when her first book on Cromwell turned her into a literary superstar. She turned Tudor’s shadow political fixer into a complex, compelling literary hero, by becoming brooding and thug.

A self-made man rising from poverty to power, Cromwell was an architect of the Reformation who helped King Henry VIII realize his desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn – and later, getting rid of Boleyn so he could marry Jane Seymour, the third of Henry’s six wives.

The Vatican’s refusal to annul Henry’s first marriage led the monarch to reject papal authority and make himself head of the Church of England.

The dramatic period saw England transition from Roman Catholicism to a Protestant state, from medieval kingdom to emerging modern state, and it has inspired countless books. , movies and TV series, from “A Man for All Seasons” to “The Tudors”.

But Mantel managed to make the famous story interesting and suspenseful.

“I’m very interested in the idea that a historical novel should be written moving forward,” she told The Associated Press in 2009. “Remember that the people you’re following don’t know the end of your story. themselves. So they move on day by day, pushed and jostled by circumstances, trying as hard as they can, but basically walking in the dark.”

Mantel also has an eye on modern-day British royalty. A 2013 lecture in which she described former Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, as a “shop effigy, with no personality” drew the ire of the British tabloid press.

Mantel said she was not talking about the duchess herself, but describing the view of Kate created by the press and public opinion. However, the author has received much criticism from Prime Minister David Cameron, among others.

Right-wing commentators also took issue with a short story titled “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher”, which imagined an attack on the Conservative Party leader. It was published in 2014, the same year Queen Elizabeth II awarded Mantel a dame, the female equivalent of a knight.

Mantel remains politically outspoken. An opponent of Brexit, she said in 2021 that she hopes to gain Irish citizenship and become “a European again.”

Mantel is survived by her husband.

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