I was saddened to learn this morning that Hilary Mantel, the two-time Booker Prize winning historical novelist, whose Thomas Cromwell trilogy [Wolf Hall (2009); Bring Up the Bodies (2012); The Mirror and the Light (2020)] made her an international star as well as serving as the basis for several stage plays and the BBC series Wolf Hall, died yesterday. She was one of my favorite novelists with an unmatched command of language and an unfailing ability to create unforgettable characters. Along with her Cromwell trilogy, I particularly loved her 1992 novel of the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety.
Mantel’s work has occasionally shown up in my essays on this blog over the years. In her honor, here are links to two of those essays. In “How to be a person” from May 2021, reading The Mirror and the Light gets me to reflecting on a recently departed and greatly loved dog, as well as the challenges of being a person in a world that often invites us to do otherwise.
In this essay from several years ago, I include the story of my reaction while on an airplane to finding out that the person across the aisle was reading the same Hilary Mantel novel as I was reading–but she was reading it on a Kindle. That, unfortunately, doesn’t count as real reading. If you love books with a passion, you’ll enjoy this one.
Rest in peace, Hilary Mantel. I think a reread of your Thomas Cromwell trilogy will be in order over Christmas break.