As I’m sure you all know by now, Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker last night for Bring Up the Bodies which makes her the first woman and first British person to win two prizes. Hooray for you, Hilary Mantel!
I was lucky enough to meet Mantel a few months ago (by which I mean I heard her give an excellent talk and then gushed and fawned over her as she signed my book. Quality interaction) and she was incredibly lovely and interesting and good at talking as well as writing. Her question and answer session was so articulate, it contained humour and grace and running metaphors about jousting.
Anyway, Bring Up the Bodies. I read it only a month after I’d finished Wolf Hall, which I adored, so my expectations were high (unlike, say, the Booker or something.) and though it didn’t grip me quite as strongly as its predecessor it is an excellent book. Seriously it could be half as good as Wolf Hall and still be an excellent book. A quarter, even. Read Wolf Hall, everyone! Apart from having the same characters and masterful writing style and starting almost directly where the last left off, Bring Up the Bodies is a very different book. It takes place over a relatively short period of time and is dominated by the foreboding atmosphere of Anne Boleyn’s downfall. There is manipulation and terror as Thomas Cromwell closes in on guilty men, but where their guilt lies is not too clear. Something Mantel talked about in her Edinburgh session was restoring contingency to her historical characters, making you feel as if their stories could go in any direction, even though we already know their fates. This is part of the dark atmosphere of Bring Up the Bodies as we feel the characters’ fear and watch them struggle to place the next step that will prove them innocent. After all, they don’t know how it ends.
You should watch Paul Laity’s clip on why Mantel should win the Booker, it explains it much better than I do! I know I’m not alone in eager anticipation for the final novel in the trilogy. So congratulations to Hilary Mantel on her historic win!