‘Wolf Hall’ author Hilary Mantel has died suddenly aged 70

LONDON (AP) – Hilary Mantel, the Booker Prize-winning author who turned Tudor power politics into page-turning fiction in the acclaimed “Wolf Hall” trilogy of historical novels, has died, her publisher said Friday. He is 70 years old.

Mantel died “suddenly but peacefully” on Thursday surrounded by close family and friends, publisher HarperCollins said.

Mantel is credited with reviving the historical fiction of “Wolf Hall” and two sequels about 16th-century English powerbroker Thomas Cromwell, right-hand man to King Henry VIII.

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

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

Mantel has won the prestigious Booker Prize twice, 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 PearsonMantel’s longtime editor, said his death was “devastating.”

“Just last month I was sitting with him on a sunny afternoon in Devon, as he talked excitedly about the new novel he was starting,” he said. “It is unbearable that we are no longer happy with his words. What we have is a body of work that will be read for generations. “

Before “Wolf Hall,” Mantel was the critically acclaimed but modestly selling author of novels on subjects ranging from the French Revolution (“A Place of Great Safety”) to the life of a psychic medium. (“Beyond Black”).

She also wrote a memoir, “Giving Up the Ghost,” recounting years of ill health, including undiagnosed endometriosis that left her infertile.

He says years of illness destroyed his dream of becoming a lawyer but he became a writer.

Mantel’s literary agent, Bill Hamilton, says the author has dealt “stoically” with health problems.

“We will miss him immeasurably, but as a shining light for writers and readers he leaves an incredible legacy,” he said.

Born in Derbyshire in central England in 1952, Mantel attended a convent school, then studied at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. She worked as a social worker in a geriatric hospital, an experience she drew on in her first two novels, “Every Day Is Mother’s Day,” published in 1985, and “Vacant Possession,” which followed next. year.

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

Mantel had been a published novelist for almost 25 years when his first book about Cromwell made him a literary superstar. He turns the shadowy Tudor political fixer into a compelling, complex literary hero, by turns thoughtful and stubborn.

A self-made man who rose 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 the later, to send Boleyn away 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 place himself as head of the Church of England.

The dramatic period saw England change from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant country, from a medieval kingdom to an emerging modern state, and it has inspired countless books, films and TV series. television, from “A Man for All Seasons” to “The Tudors.”

But Mantel manages to make the well-known story exciting and suspenseful.

“I’m very attracted to the idea that a historical novel should be written with a forward focus,” he told The Associated Press in 2009. “Remember that the people you’re following don’t know the end of their own story. .So they move forward day by day, pushed and bothered by circumstances, doing the best they can, but walking in darkness, really.

Mantel also focuses on modern-day British royalty. A 2013 lecture in which he described the former Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, as a “shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own” sparked outrage in the British tabloid press.

Mantel said he was not talking about the duchess herself but was describing a view of Kate that was built by the press and public opinion. The author even received criticism from Prime Minister David Cameron, among others.

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

Mantel remained politically active. An opponent of Brexit, he said in 2021 that he hopes to get Irish citizenship and become “a European again.”

Mantel is survived by her husband.

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