Tributes paid to Hilary Mantel, ‘queen of literature’

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Hilary Mantel is seen at a book signing for her book The Mirror & the Light at Waterstones Piccadilly on 4 March 2020 in London, England. The Mirror & The Light is the final book in Hilary Mantels Wolf Hall trilogy. (Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images)
Hilary Mantel is seen at a book signing for her book The Mirror & the Light at Waterstones Piccadilly on 4 March 2020 in London, England. The Mirror & The Light is the final book in Hilary Mantels Wolf Hall trilogy. (Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

TRIBUTES: Hilary Mantel


Tribute has been paid, in the most glowing terms, to author Hilary Mantel, who died last week aged 70. She had suffered from endometriosis for most of her adult life. In her 2003 memoir Giving Up the Ghost, she called the illness “An unlit terrain of sickness, a featureless landscape of humiliation and loss.”

The British author, of Irish descent, was most famous for her prize-winning and bestselling trilogy about Henry VIII’s councillor, Thomas Cromwell – Wolf Hall (2009), Bring Up the Bodies (2012) and The Mirror and the Light (2020) – but, as fellow author Ian McEwan told The Guardian, “her backlist is full of wonders”.

Mantel published 17 novels, beginning with Every Day Is Mother’s Day (1985), which she wrote while living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for four years. She took 18 years to write her massive novel about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety (1992). She had a dark sense of humour and was often a provocative writer, as in her story “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher” (2014). What has been described as the “ghoulish” nature of her imagination is in full spate in her acclaimed novel Beyond Black (2005), which is about a fake clairvoyant haunted by a real ghost.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16:  Hilary Mantel wins
Hilary Mantel wins the Man Booker Prize 2012 with her book Bring Up The Bodies at The Guildhall on 16 October 2012 in London, England. (Photo: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

Here are some of the tributes paid to Mantel: 

“It was always a pleasure to read such a smart, deft, meticulous, thoughtful writer, and one with such a grasp of the dark and spidery corners of human nature…” – Margaret Atwood

“We have lost another monarch this week. Mantel was queen of literature, and her reign was, like Elizabeth II’s, long, varied and uncontested. She leaves behind a huge, unfillable vacuum, a deep sense of loss for the reading public, and a toweringly significant body of work … As a writer, Mantel was fierce, fabulous and fearless. In her books, she took risks, she pushed back the boundaries of narrative, she grabbed hold of novelistic rules and shook them by the neck until they obeyed her.” – Maggie O’Farrell  

“Many authors do their most significant work early on and then simply repeat it, but she was one of those really extraordinary writers who start off great and get even better … She was the UK’s greatest living writer, and her death is a dreadful loss.” – Sarah Waters 

“We've lost a genius.” – JK Rowling 

“Her wit, stylistic daring, creative ambition and phenomenal historical insight mark her out as one of the greatest novelists of our time.” – Bill Hamilton, Mantel’s agent 

“She was a classic writer, but living in our modern times, and she will be remembered like George Eliot and [Charles] Dickens.” – Kate Mosse  

“With every book she redefined what words can do.” – Writer and broadcaster Damian Barr 

“Her range was extraordinary, from early semi-autobiographical stories to the late magisterial novels.” – Colm Tóibín 

“[E]very book [was] an unforgettable weave of luminous sentences, unforgettable characters and remarkable insight.” – Mantel’s editor, Nicholas Pearson 

“[O]ne of the very greatest of our writers; poetic and profound prose with an incomparable feel for the texture of history." – Simon Schama


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