Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Booker Prize 2012: Hilary Mantel wins again
Hilary Mantel knew from the first paragraph that Wolf Hall and Bring Up the
Bodies, her double-Man Booker Prize-winning portrait of Thomas Cromwell, would
be 'the best thing I'd ever done'.
Portraits of Thomas Cromwell,
1st Earl of Essex and Anne Boleyn, 1533 Photo: GL
Archive / Alamy and Lordprice Collection / Alamy
Image 1 of 2
Hilary Mantel writes about
Thomas Cromwell in her new book Bring Up the BodiesPhoto: Illustration by Carlo Giambarresi
In winning the Man Booker Prize for fiction tonight, Hilary Mantel has become
not only the first British author to win the award twice, but the only author to
win for two works in a series. The prize confirms Mantel's gift for writing
historical fiction, of course, but also the historic nature of the project
itself: her trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell will surely, by the time
she has finished, come to seem an achievement of era-defining proportions - one
in which, as she put it recently, "I knew from the first paragraph that this was
going to be the best thing I'd ever done".
When Mantel started out as a novelist in the 1970s, she wrote a book about
the French Revolution that didn't find a publisher until many years later:
literary historical fiction, as opposed to trashy historical romance, had little
currency then. In the intervening years Hilary Mantel has lifted the form, not
quite single-handed but almost, culminating in her intimate portrait of the
Tudor adviser. Her achievement is to have imagined and let us in on Cromwell's
cleverness and his woundedness, and then, once the reader is inside his mind, to
show how cruelly Cromwell uses what he knows.
It had been suspected that Mantel would not win this time because her first
Man Booker-winning novel, the monumental Wolf Hall, came only three years
ago, and it seemed unlikely that the prize would be given to that book's sequel.
But Bring Up the Bodies is more than Wolf Hall's successor: it is
fast, sharp, terrifying and totally immersive, and in it Mantel has switched her
narrative technique to match a story that frightened and surprised even the
author herself. "I found myself rigid with tension and rinsed by fear," she
wrote in this paper a few months ago. She closes in on the action as it
progresses towards the execution of Anne Boleyn, rendering it so gripping as to
allow us to witness every movement, every minute. Gaby Wood's full piece at The Telegraph