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Dame Hilary Mantel: Booker Prize winning novelist dies aged 70

The Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies author’s death has been announced by her literary agents

By
23 September 2022
B

ooker Prize winning novelist Dame Hilary Mantel has died aged 70.

Best known for her best-selling historical trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell, she won the Booker twice - for Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies. The books were filmed for TV and became hit West End shows.

Dame Hilary’s death was announced on Friday by her literary agents, A.M. Heath and publishers Harper Collins, who said she “died suddenly yet peacefully yesterday, surrounded by close family and friends”.

Her Wolf Hall trilogy has been translated into 41 languages and has sold more than 5 million copies.

Claire Foy as Ann Boleyn in the BBC drama inspired by Mantel’s books

/ BBC

Born in Derbyshire, she studied at the London School of Economics before living and working in Botswana and Saudi Arabia then returning to the UK as her career took off.

Always critically acclaimed, she started to find a wider audience with another historical epic - A Place of Greater Safety which was set during the French revolution.

She was awarded a CBE in 2006 and made a Dame in 2014.

Dame Hilary Mantel holding her Dame Commander of the British Empire medal presented to her by the Prince of Wales for services to literature at an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in central London.

/ PA

Her agent Bill Hamilton, who began representing her in 1984, said it had “been the greatest privilege” to work with her.

He said: “Her wit, stylistic daring, creative ambition and phenomenal historical insight mark her out as one of the greatest novelists of our time. She will be remembered for her enormous generosity to other budding writers, her capacity to electrify a live audience, and the huge array of her journalism and criticism, producing some of the finest commentary on issues and books.

“Emails from Hilary were sprinkled with bon mots and jokes as she observed the world with relish and pounced on the lazy or absurd and nailed cruelty and prejudice. There was always a slight aura of otherworldliness about her, as she saw and felt things us ordinary mortals missed, but when she perceived the need for confrontation she would fearlessly go into battle.

“And all of that against the backdrop of chronic health problems, which she dealt with so stoically. We will miss her immeasurably, but as a shining light for writers and readers she leaves an extraordinary legacy. Our thoughts go out to her beloved husband Gerald, family and friends.”

Among those paying tribute was fellow novelist Philip Hensher who said her “kindness was unexampled”.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling hailed her as “a genius”.

Another tribute came from Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon who said it was “impossible to overstate the significance of the literary legacy Hilary Mantel leaves behind”.

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