Hilary Mantel became the first British writer to win the £50,000 Man Booker Prize since Alan Hollinghurst won the award for The Line of Beauty five years ago, in 2004.
Mantel’s historical epic, Wolf Hall, about Thomas Cromwell, adviser to Henry VIII, had been the popular favourite to win the award despite competition from strong contenders like the 2003 Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee, who had won the Booker twice, for Life & Times of Michael K in 1983 and Disgrace in 1999, and AS Byatt, the 1990 Booker winner for Possession.
The Indian Aravind Adiga won the prize last year for The White Tiger, the Irish Anne Enright won for The Gathering in 2007, the Indian Kiran Desai won in 2006 for The Inheritance Of Loss, and the Irish John Banville for The Sea in 2005.
Mantel is only the third British Booker winner in 12 years following on the success of Alan Hollinghurst in 2004 and Ian McEwan, who won the prize in 1998 for Amsterdam.
Here is an excerpt from Wolf Hall published in the New York Review of Books.
The Times reports:
“The hottest favourite in the 41-year history of the Man Booker Prize edged home last night when Wolf Hall was named the winner in a secret ballot by three votes to two.
“The judges described Hilary Mantel’s 650-page doorstopper about political manoeuvring at the court of Henry VIII as an “extraordinary piece of storytelling . . . a modern novel that happens to be set in the 16th century”.
“It is the first favourite to triumph in Britain’s leading literary competition since Yann Martel’s Life of Pi in 2002. Booksellers predicted that Wolf Hall would go on to outsell all previous Booker winners.”
Mantel, 57, is now writing a sequel to Wolf Hall, called The Mirror And The Light, which will take the story up to Thomas Cromwell’s execution in 1540, says Bloomberg.
“I am happily flying through the air,” she said after winning the award. But she added on a more serious note: “‘It’s earnings. That may seem a very cold way of looking at a major award, but cost out what an author earns per hour and it’s far, far less than the minimum wage. The return is not great. The money from prizes, welcome though it is, must be used to pay the mortgage,” says the Telegraph.
The Guardian recalls:
“In an interview earlier this year, Mantel said she felt Wolf Hall was going to be her breakout novel…