British novelist Hilary Mantel snapped up the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction on Oct. 6 for her novel Wolf Hall, a fictionalization of the life of Thomas Cromwell, adviser to Henry VIII, during the King’s attempts to produce a male heir to his throne. Mantel’s win was not a surprise; bookmakers considered Wolf Hall the heaviest favorite in years. Winning the Booker Prize carries with it a 50,000 prize and historically catapults the title to the top of best-seller lists worldwide. This is Mantel’s first time winning the award, which is given annually to the best work of English-language fiction written by a citizen of the British Commonwealth, Ireland or Zimbabwe.
Born in Glossop, England, on July 6, 1952. Married, with no children.
Has written nine full-length novels.
Studied law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University, graduating with a bachelor’s in jurisprudence in 1973.
Worked as a social worker in a London Anglican community until 1975.
Taught English in Botswana from 1977 to 1980.
Received a diagnosis in 1979 of endometriosis, a hormonal disorder that left her unable to have children. Her struggles with this were chronicled in her 2003 memoir Giving Up the Ghost.
Lived in Saudi Arabia from 1981 to 1986, where she began her career as a writer.
Published her first book, Every Day Is Mother’s Day, inspired by her experiences as a social worker, in 1985.
Worked as a film critic for Britain’s The Spectator magazine from 1987 to 1991.
Was previously long-listed for the Booker Prize in 2005, for her novel Beyond Black.
Was awarded the commander level of the Order of the British Empire in 2006.
Had 10/11 odds from British bookmaker William Hill to win the Booker Prize, the shortest ever given to an eligible author.
Is currently working on a sequel to Wolf Hall.
After being announced as the Booker Prize winner: “I can tell you at this moment I am happily flying through the air.”
On her motivation to write: “I run, a lot of the time, on mental energy, which is my alternative fuel. My body’s always screaming for a rest, and my mind’s always screaming, ‘Go, go, go!’ And I need I get a lot of my impetus from the fact that I’ve got so much to write. I’ve got so many ideas, and sometimes the more exhausted my body gets, the more active my mind gets.”
Her advice to aspiring writers: “Turn off the charm … get rid of your piffling similes … eat meat, drink blood.”
“Our decision was based on the sheer bigness of the book. The boldness of its narrative, its scene-setting. We thought it was an extraordinary piece of storytelling.” James Naughtie, chairman of the Booker Prize judges, on the selection of Wolf Hall,
“Mantel’s writing is so exact and brilliant that, in itself, it seems an act of survival, even redemption.” Joan Acocella, The New Yorker critic, reviewing Mantel’s 2006 novel A Place of Greater Safety
“Hilary Mantel’s win comes with just the faintest twinge of regret from those of us who have always regarded her as our secret.” Claire Armitstead, critic, writing about Mantel’s Booker win in the Guardian
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