Hilary Mantel: Derbyshire’s controversial author

hilary mantelARTSBEAT AUTHORS: Derbyshire author Hilary Mantel has won the prestigious literary prize, the Costa Book of the Year, for Bring Up the Bodies.

The novel has already won the 2012 Booker Prize and as its predecessor Wolf Hall had won the Booker in 2009 it made her the first woman to win the prize twice.

The books chart the life and times of Thomas Cromwell, who rose to be Henry VIII’s chief minister at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.

Judges of the Costa award said it was quite simply the best book, and that they had disregarded its previous accolades.

Dame Jenni Murray, chairwoman of the judging panel, said at the awards:”We couldn’t allow the number of times it has already been lauded to affect our decision, it was quite simply the best book”.

Dame Jenni added: “Her prose is so poetic, it’s so beautiful, it’s so set in its time, so you know exactly where you are and who you are with but it’s also incredibly modern, her analysis of the politics is so modern and everybody found there were things that just stuck in their minds that they would think about for a very long time”.

In an interview with the BBC Hilary  herself said: “Astonishment is becoming my default position. I am enormously gratified. I know I am lucky in some respects but I don’t think my success is taking away from other people if we are gathering new readers and enthusing people about historical fiction in particular, that can only be good and it doesn’t just work for one author it works for all of us writers and readers alike.

When asked about her fascination with Oliver Cromwell she said: “I think its the extraordinary story of his rise in this world from blacksmith’s son to Earl of Essex in a time when society didn’t work that way – and his dominance of politics for nearly a decade working for the nightmare boss. Every day working for Henry VIII was like stepping into the lions den. What kind of man do you need to be to stick around in those circumstances? I still don’t know – he  is still a work in progress.”

Hilary was born in Glossop in 1952, the eldest of three children, but was then brought up in Hadfield. In 1970, she moved to the London School of Economics to read law before returning North to Sheffield University and marrying Gerald McEwen in 1972.

Wolf Hall became the fastest-selling Booker Prize-winner ever, with more than 200,000 copies sold in hardback alone. It has been translated into dozens of languages and both it and Bring Up the Bodies are being adapted for television and stage. Hilary is now working on the third book – The Mirror and The Light – and aims to bring the Thomas Cromwell trilogy to a conclusion this year.