Wednesday 7 October 2009

Sensation - Good English Writer Wins Booker!

This is surely good news. Hilary Mantel is a seriously good writer - one of rather few practising English novelists you can say that about - and Wolf Hall sounds a fascinating book (I'm still limbering up for it - it's a Big One - maybe when it's in paperback...). This might possibly be a case of Right Author, Wrong Book - a bit of a Booker syndrome (e.g. Penelope Fitzgerald Offshore, Kingsley Amis The Old Devils). Mantel's Beyond Black - a deep dark comedy (beyond black indeed) set in the strange world of psychics in the equally strange territory outlying London (as evoked equally brilliantly in Iain Sinclair's London Orbital) - should perhaps have been a winner. But never mind, she's won - and by doing so restored some honour to the often absurd Booker Prize business.
By the way, I'd strongly recommend Hilary Mantel's memoir Giving Up The Ghost - an extraordinarily vivid, strange and honest work. And by the way again, Hilary was brought up in the Derbyshire mining village of Hadfield, which clearly inspired the setting of her early novel Fludd - and was more recently the location of The League of Gentlemen's fictional village of Royston Vasey.


  1. It really is good Nige. A big 'un but you don't want it to end (a sequel is in the pipeline so in a way it hasn't). I've a feeling her Thomas Cromwell might be one of the great fictional characters.

    I don't know whether you've read it, but it's very similar in conception and execution to A Place of Greater Safety, her brilliant novel about the adventures of Robespierre, Danton and Desmoulins. Well worth a read, and one of the best descriptions of the French Revolution about.

    I posted a bit on Wolf Hall here , by the way.

  2. Thanks for the link, Gaw - that's really whetted my appetite now... And A Place of Greater Safety has been high on my to-read list for too long - I must get down to it soon, perhaps fit it in before the Wolf Hall paperback...

  3. The fictional Sir Thomas More was a much finer fellow than the nasty real Thomas More; is Cromwell similarly improved?

  4. Dearieme: I thought Mantel brought out More's nastiness (contrary to Ackroyd, who portrays him positively as, of course, does Bolt). Personally, I've always thought he was a prig with a strong sado-masochistic streak.

    Cromwell on the other hand is unmistakeably the book's hero, mostly for his pragmatic, humanistic and 'modern' attitudes. In the past he's had a pretty terrible press and so Mantel's favourable portrait might be called revisionist. I don't know enough about the primary sources to have an opinion about how much Mantel's portrait holds water. But we can be sure that these debates will never end!

  5. Excellent news! I love Hilary Mantel, she's a great writer indeed.