Hilary Mantel

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Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel.jpg
BornHilary Mary Thompson
6 July 1952
Glossop, Derbyshire, England
Died22 September 2022(2022-09-22) (aged 70)
Exeter, Devon, England
Occupation
  • Novelist
  • short story writer
  • essayist
  • critic
LanguageEnglish
Education
Period1985–2020
Notable works
Notable awards
Spouse
  • Gerald McEwen
    (m. 1973; div. 1981)
  • (m. 1982)
Website
hilary-mantel.com
Photos
image icon Hilary Mantel, 17 October 2012[2]
image icon Hilary Mantel, 8 March 2020[3]

Dame Hilary Mary Mantel DBE FRSL (/mænˈtɛl/ man-TEL;[4] born Thompson; 6 July 1952 – 22 September 2022) was a British writer whose work includes historical fiction, personal memoirs and short stories.[5] Her first published novel, Every Day Is Mother's Day, was released in 1985. She went on to write 12 novels, two collections of short stories, a personal memoir, and numerous articles and opinion pieces.

Mantel won the Booker Prize twice: the first was for her 2009 novel Wolf Hall, a fictional account of Thomas Cromwell's rise to power in the court of Henry VIII, and the second was for its 2012 sequel Bring Up the Bodies. The third instalment of the Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, was longlisted for the same prize.[6]

Early life[edit]

Hilary Mary Thompson was born on 6 July 1952 in Glossop, Derbyshire,[7] the eldest of three children, with two younger brothers, and raised as a Roman Catholic[8] in the mill village of Hadfield where she attended St Charles Roman Catholic Primary School.

Her parents, Margaret (née Foster) and Henry Thompson (a clerk), were both Catholics of Irish descent, born in England. When Mantel was seven, her mother's lover, Jack Mantel, moved in with the family. He shared a bedroom with her mother, while her father moved to another room. Four years later, when she was eleven, the family, except for her father, moved to Romiley, Cheshire, to escape the local gossip. She never saw her father again.[9]

When the family relocated, Jack Mantel (1932–1995)[10][11] became her unofficial stepfather, and she legally took his surname.[12][13] She attended Harrytown Convent school in Romiley, Cheshire.

In 1970, she began studies at the London School of Economics to read law.[5] She transferred to the University of Sheffield and graduated as a Bachelor of Jurisprudence in 1973.[11] After university, Mantel worked in the social work department of a geriatric hospital and then as a sales assistant at Kendals department store in Manchester.[14]

In 1973 she married Gerald McEwen, a geologist.[15] In 1974, she began writing a novel about the French Revolution, but was unable to find a publisher (it was eventually released as A Place of Greater Safety in 1992). In 1977 Mantel moved to Botswana with her husband where they lived for the next five years.[16] Later, they spent four years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia[17] She later said that leaving Jeddah felt like "the happiest day of [her] life";[18] she published memoirs of this period in The Spectator,[19] and the London Review of Books.[20][21]

Literary career[edit]

Mantel's first novel, Every Day Is Mother's Day, was published in 1985, and its sequel, Vacant Possession, a year later. After returning to England, she became the film critic of The Spectator, a position she held from 1987 to 1991,[22] and a reviewer for a number of papers and magazines in Britain and the United States.

Her third novel, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), drew on her life in Saudi Arabia. It features a threatening clash of values between the neighbours in a city apartment block to explore the tensions between Islamic culture and the liberal West.[23][24][25] Her Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize-winning novel Fludd is set in 1956 in a fictitious northern village called Fetherhoughton, centering on a Roman Catholic church and a convent. A mysterious stranger brings about transformations in the lives of those around him.[26]

Mantel was a Booker Prize judge in 1990, when A.S. Byatt's novel Possession was awarded the prize.[27]

A Place of Greater Safety (1992) won the Sunday Express Book of the Year award, for which her two previous books had been shortlisted. A long and historically accurate novel, it traces the career of three French revolutionaries, Danton, Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins, from childhood to their early deaths during the Reign of Terror of 1794.[28]

A Change of Climate (1994), set in rural Norfolk, explores the lives of Ralph and Anna Eldred, as they raise their four children and devote their lives to charity. It includes chapters about their early married life as missionaries in South Africa, when they were imprisoned and deported to Bechuanaland, and the tragedy that occurred there.[29]

An Experiment in Love (1996), which won the Hawthornden Prize, takes place over two university terms in 1970. It follows the progress of three girls – two friends and one enemy – as they leave home and attend university in London. Margaret Thatcher makes a cameo appearance in this novel, which explores women's appetites and ambitions, and suggests how they are often thwarted. Though Mantel used material from her own life, it is not an autobiographical novel.[30]

Her next book, The Giant, O'Brien (1998), is set in the 1780s, and is based on the true story of Charles Byrne (or O'Brien). He came to London to earn money by displaying himself as a freak. His bones hang today in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. The novel treats O'Brien and his antagonist, the Scots surgeon John Hunter, less as characters in history than as mythic protagonists in a dark and violent fairytale, necessary casualties of the Age of Enlightenment. She adapted the book for BBC Radio 4, in a play starring Alex Norton (as Hunter) and Frances Tomelty.[31]

In 2003 Mantel published her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, which won the MIND "Book of the Year" award. That same year she brought out a collection of short stories, Learning To Talk. All the stories deal with childhood and, taken together, the books show how the events of a life are mediated as fiction. Her 2005 novel, Beyond Black, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2005.[32] Novelist Pat Barker said it was "the book that should actually have won the Booker".[33] Set in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it features a professional medium, Alison Hart, whose calm and jolly exterior conceals grotesque psychic damage. She trails around with her a troupe of "fiends", who are invisible but always on the verge of becoming flesh.[34]

The long novel Wolf Hall, about Henry VIII's minister Thomas Cromwell, was published in 2009 to critical acclaim.[35][36] The book won that year's Booker Prize and, upon winning the award, Mantel said, "I can tell you at this moment I am happily flying through the air".[37] Judges voted three to two in favour of Wolf Hall for the prize. Mantel was presented with a trophy and a £50,000 cash prize during an evening ceremony at the Guildhall, London.[38][39] The panel of judges, led by the broadcaster James Naughtie, described Wolf Hall as an "extraordinary piece of storytelling".[40] Leading up to the award, the book was backed as the favourite by bookmakers and accounted for 45% of the sales of all the nominated books.[38] It was the first favourite since 2002 to win the award.[41] On receiving the prize, Mantel said that she would spend the prize money on "sex and drugs and rock' n' roll".[42]

The sequel to Wolf Hall, called Bring Up the Bodies, was published in May 2012 to wide acclaim. It won the 2012 Costa Book of the Year and the 2012 Booker Prize; Mantel thus became the first British writer and the first woman to win the Booker Prize more than once.[43][44] Mantel was the fourth author to receive the award twice, following J. M. Coetzee, Peter Carey and J. G. Farrell.[45][41] This award also made Mantel the first author to win the award for a sequel.[46] The books were adapted into plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company and were produced as a mini-series by BBC.[46] In 2020 Mantel published the third novel of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, called The Mirror and the Light.[47][48] The Mirror and the Light was selected for the longlist for the 2020 Booker Prize.[49]

In 2014, Mantel published a collection of 10 short stories, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, which The Guardian called a "flawed but absorbing selection" singling out the story Sorry to Disturb for praise.[50] The New York Times described the collection as having "narrators much more outwardly meek and inwardly turbulent than the murderous royals and puppeteers so beloved in her historical fiction".[51] The controversial title story is about an assassin who disguises himself as a plumber and takes over an apartment opposite the hospital where the Prime Minister is undergoing eye surgery. The woman who owns the apartment, and who is in effect a hostage, turns out to be surprisingly sympathetic to the assassin's cause.

She was also working on a short non-fiction book, titled The Woman Who Died of Robespierre, about the Polish playwright Stanisława Przybyszewska. Mantel also wrote reviews and essays, mainly for The Guardian,[52] the London Review of Books[53] and the New York Review of Books.[54] The Culture Show programme on BBC Two broadcast a profile of Mantel on 17 September 2011.[55]

In December 2016, Mantel spoke with Kenyon Review editor David H. Lynn on the KR Podcast[56] about the way historical novels are published, what it is like to live in the world of one character for more than ten years, writing for the stage, and the final book in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light.[56]

She delivered five 2017 Reith Lectures on BBC Radio Four, talking about the theme of historical fiction.[57] Her final one of these lectures was on the theme of adaptation of historical novels for stage or screen. Mantel's lectures were selected by its producer, Jim Frank, as amongst the best of the long-running series.[58]

Personal life and death[edit]

Mantel married Gerald McEwen in 1973. They divorced in 1981 but remarried in 1982.[15] McEwen gave up geology to manage his wife's business.[59] They lived in Budleigh Salterton, Devon.[when?][46]

During her twenties, Mantel had a debilitating and painful illness. She was initially diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, hospitalised, and treated with antipsychotic drugs, which reportedly produced psychotic symptoms. As a consequence, Mantel refrained from seeking help from doctors for some years. Finally, in Botswana and desperate, she consulted a medical textbook and realised she was probably suffering from a severe form of endometriosis, a diagnosis confirmed by doctors in London. The condition, and what was at the time a necessary treatment - a surgical menopause at the age of 27 - left her unable to have children and continued to disrupt her life.[60] She later said "you've thought your way through questions of fertility and menopause and what it means to be without children because it all happened catastrophically". This led Mantel to see the problematised woman's body as a theme in her writing.[61] She later became patron of the Endometriosis SHE Trust.[62]

Mantel died on 22 September 2022, aged 70, at a hospital in Exeter from complications of a stroke that occurred three days earlier.[63][64]

Views[edit]

During her university years, Mantel identified as a socialist, and was a member of the Young Communist League.[11]

Comments on royalty[edit]

In a 2013 speech on media and royal women at the British Museum, Mantel commented on Catherine Middleton, then the Duchess of Cambridge, saying that Middleton was forced to present herself publicly as a personality-free "shop window mannequin" whose sole purpose is to deliver an heir to the throne.[65][66] Mantel expanded on these views in an essay, "Royal Bodies", for the London Review of Books (LRB): "It may be that the whole phenomenon of monarchy is irrational, but that doesn't mean that when we look at it we should behave like spectators at Bedlam. Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty".[67]

These remarks stimulated substantial public debate. The Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband and Prime Minister David Cameron both criticised Mantel's remarks, while Jemima Khan defended Mantel.[68][69] Zing Tsjeng praised the LRB essay, finding the "clarity of prose and analysis is just incredible".[70]

Margaret Thatcher[edit]

In September 2014, in an interview published in The Guardian, Mantel said she had fantasised about the murder of the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1983, and fictionalised the event in a short story called "The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: 6 August 1983". Allies of Thatcher called for a police investigation, to which Mantel responded: "Bringing in the police for an investigation was beyond anything I could have planned or hoped for, because it immediately exposes them to ridicule."[71]

Comments on Catholicism[edit]

Mantel discussed her religious views in her 2003 memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Brought up as a Roman Catholic, she ceased to believe at age 12, but said the religion left a permanent mark on her:

I took what I was told really seriously, it bred a very intense habit of introspection and self-examination and a terrible severity with myself. So that nothing was ever good enough. It's like installing a policeman, and one moreover who keeps changing the law.[72]

In a 2013 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mantel stated: "I think that nowadays the Catholic Church is not an institution for respectable people. [...] When I was a child I wondered why priests and nuns were not nicer people. I thought that they were amongst the worst people I knew."[8] These statements, as well as the themes explored in her earlier novel Fludd, led the Catholic bishop Mark O'Toole to comment: "There is an anti-Catholic thread there, there is no doubt about it. Wolf Hall is not neutral."[73]

List of works[edit]

Novels[edit]

Short story collections[edit]

  • Learning to Talk (Fourth Estate, 2003; ISBN 9780007166442)
    • "King Billy Is a Gentleman"
    • "Destroyed"
    • "Curved Is the Line of Beauty"
    • "Learning to Talk"
    • "Third Floor Rising"
    • "The Clean Slate"
  • The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (Fourth Estate, 2014; ISBN 9780007580989)[77][78]
    • "Sorry to Disturb"
    • "Comma"
    • "The Long QT"
    • "Winter Break"
    • "Harley Street"
    • "Offences Against the Person"
    • "How Shall I Know You?"
    • "The Heart Fails Without Warning"
    • "Terminus"
    • "The English School"
    • "The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher"

Memoir[edit]

Selected articles and essays[edit]

Awards and honours[edit]

Literary prizes[edit]

Honours[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hilary Mantel – Bring Up the Bodies". Bookclub. 6 October 2013. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. ^ "Writer Hilary Mantel is photographed for the Financial Times in London, England. (Photo by A.J.Levy/Contour)". Getty Images. 17 October 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2022.
  3. ^ "Hilary Mantel is photographed for the New York Times on February 24, 2020 in Sunningdale, England. (Photo by Ellie Smith/Contour)". Getty Images. 24 February 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2022.
  4. ^ Sangster, Catherine (14 September 2009). "How to Say: JM Coetzee and other Booker authors". BBC News. Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Literature: Writers: Hilary Mantel". British Council. 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  6. ^ "The 2020 Booker Prize longlist announced". The Booker Prizes. 27 July 2020. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  7. ^ "Obituary: Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winner celebrated for the 'Wolf Hall' trilogy". Irish Independent. 25 September 2022. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  8. ^ a b Singh, Anita (13 May 2012). "Hilary Mantel: Catholic Church is not for respectable people". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  9. ^ Obituary in The Times (London); reprinted in The Dominion Post (New Zealand), 27 September 2022, page 24
  10. ^ Mantel, Hilary (17 April 2010). "Hilary Mantel remembers her stepfather's books". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  11. ^ a b c MacFarquhar, Larissa (15 October 2012). "How Hilary Mantel Revitalized Historical Fiction". The New Yorker. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  12. ^ Murphy, Anna (1 March 2010). "Hilary Mantel Interview". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  13. ^ Marshall, Alex; Alter, Alexandra (23 September 2022). "Hilary Mantel, Prize-Winning Author of Historical Fiction, Dies at 70". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "Hilary Mantel".
  15. ^ a b Emina, Seb (Spring–Summer 2020). "Hilary Mantel | The queen of historical fiction". The Gentlewoman. No. 21. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  16. ^ "Hilary Mantel". The Man Booker Prize. Archived from the original on 28 November 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  17. ^ O'Reilly, Sally; Towheed, Shafquat (4 March 2020). "A little literary tourism: in search of Hilary Mantel". Department of English and Creative Writing. The Open University. Archived from the original on 26 September 2022. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  18. ^ Mantel, Hilary (21 February 2010). "Once upon a life". The Observer Magazine. London.
  19. ^ a b Mantel, Hilary (1987). "Last Morning in Al Hamra". The Spectator. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  20. ^ Mantel, Hilary (30 March 1989). "Diary: Bookcase Shopping in Jeddah". London Review of Books. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  21. ^ Mantel, Hilary (1 January 2009). "Someone to Disturb". London Review of Books. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  22. ^ "Hilary Mantel". Literature.britishcouncil.org. Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  23. ^ Anderson, Hephzibah (19 April 2009). "Hilary Mantel: on the path from pain to prizes". The Observer. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  24. ^ Ray, Mohit K. (2007). The Atlantic Companion to Literature in English. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 340. ISBN 9788126908325.
  25. ^ Rees, Jasper (8 October 2009). "Hilary Mantel: health or the Man Booker Prize? I'd take health". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  26. ^ Mantel, Hilary (1989). Fludd. Viking Press. ISBN 9780007354931.
  27. ^ "The Booker Prize 1990 | The Booker Prizes". thebookerprizes.com. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  28. ^ Mantel, Hilary (1992). A Place of Greater Safety. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780007354849.
  29. ^ Mantel, Hilary (1994). A Change of Climate. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780007354849.
  30. ^ Selwyn, Matthew (20 March 2014). "Review: An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel". bibliofreak.net.
  31. ^ Lewis, Isobel (23 September 2022). "Which of Hilary Mantel books were adapted for the screen and stage?". The Independent.
  32. ^ "Beyond Black | The Booker Prizes". thebookerprizes.com. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  33. ^ "Celebrating Hilary Mantel: how the Wolf Hall author rewrote history | The Booker Prizes". thebookerprizes.com. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  34. ^ Mantel, Hilary (2005). Beyond Black. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780007268375.
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  38. ^ a b c Brown, Mark (6 October 2009). "Booker prize goes to Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  39. ^ Mukherjee, Neel (6 October 2009). "The Booker got it right: Mantel's Cromwell is a book for all seasons". The Times. London. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  40. ^ Hoyle, Ben (6 October 2009). "Booker Prize won by Hilary Mantels tale of historical intrigue". The Times. London. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  41. ^ a b Pressley, James; Hephzibah Anderson (6 October 2009). "Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall' Wins U.K. Booker Prize, 50,000 Pounds". Bloomberg. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  42. ^ Voigt, Claudia (14 January 2013). "Der schwarze Kern". Der Spiegel (in German). pp. 132–134.
  43. ^ Blair, Elizabeth (16 October 2012). "Hilary Mantel First Woman To Win Booker Prize Twice". NPR.org.
  44. ^ "Hilary Mantel's Heart of Stone". Slate. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  45. ^ Clark, Nick (11 September 2012). "Booker Prize 2012: Hilary Mantel could become first British writer to win the literary prize twice after Bring up the Bodies makes shortlist". The Independent. London. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  46. ^ a b c d Alter, Alexandra (24 February 2020). "For Hilary Mantel, There's No Time Like the Past". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  47. ^ "Hilary Mantel reveals plans for Wolf Hall trilogy". BBC News. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  48. ^ "Hilary Mantel wins 2012 Costa novel prize". BBC News. 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
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  50. ^ Lasdun, James (24 September 2014). "The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher review – Hilary Mantel's new collection". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 November 2022.
  51. ^ Maslin, Janet (24 September 2014). "'The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher,' by Hilary Mantel - The New York Times". The New York Times.
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  57. ^
  58. ^ Frank, Jim. "Ten of the best Reith Lectures". BBC Online. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  59. ^ Renzetti, Elizabeth (18 June 2012). "Inverview Mantel: She writes about Cromwell, but Henry VIII is the key". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  60. ^ Mantel, Hilary (6 February 2003). "Memories of Catriona". London Review of Books. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  61. ^ "Hilary Mantel: 'Being a novelist is no fun. But fun isn't high on my list'". The Guardian. 4 October 2020. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  62. ^ {{cite news |url=https://www.theguardian.com/society/2004/jun/07/health.genderissues |title='Every part of my body hurt' – Hilary Mantel on a little understood disease: endometriosis |first=Hilary |last=Mantel |date=7 June 2004|access-date = 17 January 2021|newspaper= The Guardian]}
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  65. ^ Sherwin, Adam (19 February 2013). "Hilary Mantel attacks 'bland, plastic, machine-made' Duchess of Cambridge". The Independent'. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  66. ^ "They also took up a total of four paragraphs in a 30-paragraph speech – less than one-seventh, in other words" according to Hadley Freeman "Hilary Mantel v the Duchess of Cambridge: a story of lazy journalism and raging hypocrisy", The Guardian, 19 February 2013.
  67. ^ Mantel, Hilary (21 February 2013). "Royal Bodies", London Review of Books, 35:4, pp.3–7.
  68. ^ Sherwin, Adam. "David Cameron defends Kate over Hilary Mantel's 'shop-window mannequin' remarks", The Independent, 19 February 2013.
  69. ^ Jessica Elgot. "Hilary Mantel And 10 Reasons Why She Might Be Right About Kate Middleton", The Huffington Post, 19 February 2013.
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  72. ^ Edemariam, Aida (12 September 2009). "I accumulated an anger that would rip a roof off". The Guardian. London.
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External links[edit]