Hilary Mantel one of the greatest writers of her generation

She finished her first novel in 1979, A safer place, set in the French Revolution. It was initially rejected by publishers – she was unknown, they said, and the book was over 700 pages. But her second book, a contemporary novel published in 1985, became a critical success, and over the following decades she developed a solid following.

Its mainstream success, however, was not until 2009, with hall of wolvesthe first in his trilogy of books about Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith who eventually became one of Henry VIII’s most trusted aides.

Booker Prize winner Hilary MantelCredit:Els Zweerink

She spoke last year about her intention to return to historical fiction. “I have another novel in the works but it’s too early to talk about it,” she said, but revealed it was set in the 18th century, a period she visited in her 1992 novel. , A safer place.

Mantel and her husband, McEwen, had recently bought a house in Ireland and were in the process of moving out of their Devon home. However, her agent and publisher announced that she died “suddenly but peacefully” on Thursday, surrounded by close family and friends after suffering a stroke three days earlier.

In a joint statement they said: ‘Hilary Mantel was one of the greatest English novelists of this century and her beloved works are considered modern classics. She will be greatly missed.”

Bill Hamilton, her agent at AM Heath, said she was an author of “enormous generosity” towards aspiring writers, who “watched the world with relish and threw themselves into the lazy or the absurd and nailed cruelty and prejudice.

“There was always a slight otherworldly aura around her, as she was and felt things that us ordinary mortals missed, but when she perceived the need for a confrontation, she fought. without fear,” he said, adding that she stoically dealt with chronic illnesses. health problems.

Mantel was unafraid of controversy and in 2013 came under fire for giving a talk in which she compared the Duchess of Cambridge to “a shop window mannequin” and “an articulated doll from which some rags hang.” She became a lady two years later.

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More recently, she spoke out in support of JK Rowling, saying attacks on the Harry Potter author over her stance on trans issues were “unwarranted and shameful”.

Rowling tweeted upon news of Mantel’s death, “We’ve lost a genius.” Bernardine Evaristo, another Booker Prize winner and President of the Royal Society of Literature, said: “We were so lucky to have such massive talent among us.”

Ben Miles, who played Thomas Cromwell in the Royal Shakespeare Company stage adaptations hall of wolves novels, also paid tribute.

“She was an extraordinary woman. A good friend and close colleague. I feel so honored to have known her and to have contributed in any way to the work of one of the greatest writers of our time. I will greatly miss his kindness, his humor and his gentle tenacity.The indisputable genius of his words remains as a small consolation to this tragic loss.

Mantel planned to move to Ireland as she no longer wanted to live in the UK after Brexit. “As much as I love where I live now – in the West Country, by the sea – I feel the need to pack my bags and be European again,” she said last year.

In her last interview, published two weeks ago, Mantel was asked if she believes in an afterlife. “Yes,” she replied. “I can’t imagine how it could work. However, the universe is not limited by what I can imagine.

She is the author of seventeen acclaimed books, including: Every day is mother’s day, Vacant possessionEEight months on Ghazzah Street, Fludd (winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, Cheltenham Prize and Southern Arts Literature Prize winner), A safer place (winner of the Sunday Express Book of the Year award), A change of climate, A loving experience (winner of the 1996 Hawthornden Prize), The giant, O’Brien, beyond the dark (shortlisted for a Commonwealth Writers Prize 2006 and for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006) and collections of short stories Learn to speak and The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.

His non-fiction work includes the memoirs Give up the ghost (his writings collected from the London Review of Books), Fireplace parts and more recently The Wolf Room Picture Booka photographic collaboration between Hilary Mantel, Ben Miles and George Miles.

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In 1990 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, in 2006 received a CBE and in 2014 she was appointed DBE. She has also served as Patron of Scene and Heard, a theatrical mentoring project, Governor of RSC and President of the Budleigh Festival.

Nicholas Pearson, former publishing director of 4th Estate and longtime editor of Mantel, said: “Hilary had a unique view of the world – she singled it out and revealed how it works in her contemporary and historical novels. – each book is an unforgettable weave of luminous phrases, unforgettable characters and remarkable insight.

Charlie Redmayne, Managing Director of HarperCollins, said, “We are so proud that 4th Estate and HarperCollins have been Hilary’s publisher, and for such an incomparable body of work. A writer at heart, Hilary was one of the greatest of her generation – a serious and fearless novelist with great empathy for her subjects.

Hilary Mantel is survived by her husband and her brother, Brian.

Telegraph, London